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1777. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. VI (1777-1778) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. VI (1777-1778).
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
Chester, 1 August, 1777.1
I have this moment received intelligence by express, that the enemy’s fleet yesterday morning about eight o’clock sailed out of the Capes in an eastern course. This surprising event gives me the greatest anxiety, and, unless every possible exertion is made, may be productive of the happiest consequences to the enemy, and the most injurious to us. I have desired General Sullivan’s division, and the two brigades that left you last, immediately to return and recross the river, and shall forward on the rest of the army with all the expedition in my power. I have also written to General Clinton requesting him instantly to reinforce you, with as many militia of the State of New York as he can collect; and you are, on receipt of this, to send on an express to Governor Trumbull, urging it upon him to assist you, with as many of the Connecticut militia as he can get together, and without a moment’s loss of time.
The importance of preventing Mr. Howe’s getting possession of the Highlands by a coup de main is infinite to America; and, in the present situation of things, every effort that can be thought of must be used. The probability of his going to the eastward is exceedingly small, and the ill effects that might attend such a step inconsiderable in comparison with those, that would inevitably attend a successful stroke upon the Highlands. Connecticut cannot be in more danger through any channel than this, and every motive of its own interest and the general good demand its utmost endeavors to give you effectual assistance. Governor Trumbull will I trust be sensible of this. I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Philadelphia, 3 August, 1777.
Your favor of this date, with its enclosures, is now before me. At the same time that I express my thanks for the high mark of confidence which Congress have been pleased to repose in me by their Resolve, authorizing me to send an Officer to command the northern army, I should wish to be excused from making the appointment. For this many reasons might be mentioned, which, I am persuaded, will occur to Congress upon reflection. The northern department in a great measure has been considered as separate, and more peculiarly under their direction; and the officers commanding there always of their nomination. I have never interfered further than merely to advise, and to give such aids as were in my power, on the requisitions of those officers. The present situation of that department is delicate and critical, and the choice of an officer to the command may involve very interesting and important consequences.1
It is certainly necessary, that a body of militia should be immediately called out to reinforce the northern army. In the conference which your committee honored me with yesterday evening, I mentioned the number which I thought sufficient; But my opinion on this point, and the apportioning them to the different States, I wish to submit to Congress, who can best determine the Quotas that should come from each. I would only observe, that Connecticut and New York are already, and may be again, called on, to afford succors to the army at Peekskill. I have the honor to be, &c.2
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Philadelphia, 4 August, 1777.
I have been honored with your letter of the 28th ultimo. I confess the conduct of the enemy is distressing beyond measure, and past our comprehension. On Thursday and Friday last their fleet, consisting of two hundred and twenty-eight sail, were beating off the Capes of Delaware, as if they intended to come in. From this circumstance, nobody doubted but that Philadelphia was the immediate object of their expedition, and that they would commence their operations as soon as possible. They have stood out to sea again, but how far, or where they are going, remains to be known. From their entire command of the water they derive immense advantages, and distress us much by harassing and marching our troops from post to post. I wish we could fix on their destination; in such case I should hope we would be prepared to receive them.
I had been advised before that the Northern army had taken post below Fort Edward. I am told by those acquainted with the country, that Fort Edward is not tenable, and that the grounds where the army now is are good and pretty defensible. I hope they will prove so on trial. If Fort Edward was so situated, and the evacuation necessary, though I regret the expense incurred in building the barracks, etc., yet their destruction might be advisable, as otherwise they would have afforded shelter and protection to the enemy. I should be happy, if I could spare the reinforcement of Continental troops which you mention. But it cannot be done. We now feel sensibly the fatal consequences arising from the deficiency in our regiments, and that languor which has but too generally prevailed throughout the States. If the quota of men exacted from the States were complete, we could, with great ease, check the progress of General Burgoyne, and bid defiance to all their armies. I trust, however, though this is not our condition, and though matters do appear somewhat gloomy at present, that a steady perseverance, and our spirited exertions, will put things right again. It behooves every man to turn out and act with vigor at this juncture. Every motive of self-preservation, of liberty, and happiness, has a claim upon our efforts, and requires our aid. Surely the militia do not mean to be supine spectators of their own and their country’s ruin. I cannot entertain so ungenerous a thought, and one so unworthy and derogatory of their former characters.
The panic, I flatter myself, is nearly subsided, and I doubt not but they will give the army every possible assistance. The inquiry you mention will certainly be made, and in the course of a short time, I suppose as soon as circumstances will admit it.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir, &c.
TO GOVERNOR HENRY.
Philadelphia, 4 August, 1777.
The great expense and loss of time, which has attended the recruiting service in most of the States, and the little advantage derived from it, has induced Congress to recommend the executive powers of each, to adopt certain new regulations, for promoting this important and essential business, and for taking it entirely out of the hands of the officers of the army. The resolve on this subject, and the regulations recommended, passed on the 31st ultimo; and will, I presume, be transmitted you by the President.1
I will not urge the expediency of carrying this proceeding into immediate execution. I shall only observe, that the necessity is obvious, and that it demands our most active attention. The principal cause of my troubling you at this time is, to request that, after the persons recommended are appointed in your State, you would be pleased to transmit me their names, their places of residence, and those designed for the rendezvous of recruits and deserters. As soon as I am advised upon these subjects, I shall recall all the officers, who are recruiting, and order them forthwith to join their respective corps. Before I conclude, I would beg leave to mention, that the success of this interesting business, in all its parts, will depend much upon a judicious choice of those, who are to be employed in it, and that, I think, the districts should not be too large and extensive. I have the honor, &c.1
TO THE COUNCIL OF SAFETY OF NEW YORK.
Philadelphia, 4 August, 1777.
I have been duly honored by your several favors of the 25th, 27th, & 30th of July. The misfortune at Ticonderoga has given a very disagreeable turn to our affairs, and has thrown a gloom upon the prospect, which the campaign, previous to that event, afforded. But I am in great hopes, that the ill consequences of it will not continue long to operate, and that the jealousies and alarms, which so sudden and unexpected an event has produced in the minds of the people, both of your State and to the eastward, will soon subside, and give place to the more rational dictates of self-preservation, and a regard to the common good. In fact, the worst effect of that event is, that it has served to produce those distrusts and apprehensions; for, if the matter were coolly and dispassionately considered, there would be nothing found so formidable in Mr. Burgoyne and the force under him, with all his successes, as to countenance the least degree of despondency; and experience would show, that even the moderate exertions of the States, more immediately interested, would be sufficient to check his career, and, perhaps, convert the advantages he has gained into his ruin. But while people continue to view what has happened through the medium of suspicion and fear, there is no saying to what length an enterprising man may push his good fortune. I have the fullest confidence, that no endeavors of the Council will be wanted to bring your State (with the distresses of which I am deeply affected) to every effort it is capable of making in its present mutilated situation; and they may rely upon it, that no means in my power shall be unemployed to coöperate with them, in the danger that presses upon the State, and through it threatens the continent. If I do not give so effectual aid as I could wish to the northern army, it is not for want of inclination, nor from being too little impressed with the importance of doing it. It is because the state of affairs in this quarter will not possibly admit of it. It would be the height of impolicy to weaken ourselves too much here, in order to increase our strength there; and it must certainly be considered more difficult, as well as of greater moment, to control the main army of the enemy, than an inferior and I may say dependent one; for it is pretty obvious, that, if General Howe can be completely kept at bay, and prevented effecting his principal purposes, the successes of Mr. Burgoyne, whatever they may be, must be partial and temporary.
Nothing that I can do shall be wanting to rouse the eastern States, and excite them to those exertions, which the exigency of our affairs so urgently demands. I lament that they have not yet done more; that so few of their militia have come into the field, and that those few have behaved so inconsistent with the duty they owe their country, at this critical period. But I have nevertheless great reliance upon those States. I know they are capable of powerful efforts, and that their attachment to the cause, notwithstanding they may be a little tardy, will not allow them long to withhold their aid, at a time when their own safety, that of a sister State, and, in a great measure, the safety of the continent call for their greatest zeal and activity.1 I flatter myself, that the presence of Generals Lincoln and Arnold, in the northern department, will have a happy effect upon them. Those gentlemen possess much of their confidence, particularly the former, than whom there is perhaps no man from the State of Massachusetts, who enjoys more universal esteem and popularity; and, in addition to that, they may both be considered as very valuable officers.
You intimate a wish, that some assistance could be drawn from the southern States at this time. But, while things remain in their present posture, and appearances, however illusory they may prove, afford the strongest reason to keep their force at home, to counteract the seeming intentions of General Howe, I could neither ask nor expect them to detach any part of it to the succor of the northern States, which are so well able to defend themselves against the force they now have to oppose.
I hope an exaggerated idea of the enemy’s force may have no injurious influence on our measures. There is no circumstance, with which I am acquainted, that induces me to believe General Burgoyne can have more than six or seven thousand men; and, if the force left in Canada is so considerable, as the information you send me makes it, he cannot have even so many. The representations of prisoners and deserters, in this respect, are of little validity. Their knowledge is always very limited, and their intention, particularly the former, is very often bad. Beyond what regards the state of their own respective companies, no attention is due to what they say. The number of regiments, your informant mentions, agrees with other accounts. But in the number of men in each company, he gives the establishment, not I am persuaded the actual state. The British army in Canada last campaign, though they suffered little by action, must have decreased materially by sickness and other casualties; and if the recruits, both from England and Germany, bore any proportion to those, who have reinforced General Howe, the state of their regiments must be greatly inferior to what your information supposes. Reasoning from analogy, as far as it will apply, I cannot imagine that the British regiments can exceed two hundred and fifty men each, fit for the field, or that the foreign troops can amount to much more than three thousand men.
The appointment of General Clinton to the government of your State is an event that in itself gives me great pleasure, and very much abates the regret I should otherwise feel for the loss of his services in the military line. That gentleman’s character is such, as will make him peculiarly useful at the head of your State, in a situation so alarming and interesting, as it at present experiences. For the future, agreeable to your desire, I shall direct my applications to him.1
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
Germantown,near Philada, 5 August, 1777.
Your favors of the 21st of June from Westmoreland, and 10th ult. from Fredricksburg, are both to hand. Since General Howe’s remove from the Jerseys, the troops under my command have been more harrassed by marching & countermarching, than by any thing that has happened to them in the course of the campaign. After Genl. Howe had imbarked his Troops, the presumption that he woud operate upon the North River, to form a junction with General Burgoyne, was so strong, that I removed from Middle Brook to Morristown, and from Morristown to the Clove, (a narrow pass leading through the Highlands,) about eighteen miles from the river. Indeed, upon some pretty strong presumptive evidence, I threw two divisions over the North River. In this situation we lay till about the 24th ult., when receiving certain information, that the fleet had actually sailed from Sandy Hook, (the outer point of New York Harbor) and the concurring sentiment of every one, (tho I acknowledge my doubts of it were strong,) that Philadelphia was the object, we countermarched and got to Coryell’s Ferry on the Delaware, (about thirty-three miles above the city,) on the 27th, where I lay till I received information from Congress, that the enemy were actually at the Capes of Delaware. This brought us in great haste to this place for defence of the city. But in less than twenty-four hours after our arrival, we got accounts of the disappearance of the Fleet on the 31st; since which, nothing having been heard of them, we remain here in a very irksome state of suspense; some imagining that they are gone to the Southward, whilst a majority, (in whose opinion upon this occasion I concur,) are satisfied they are gone to the Eastward. The fatigue, however, and injury, which men must sustain by long marches in such extreme heat, as we have felt for the last five days, must keep us quiet till we hear something of the destination of the Enemy.
I congratulate you very sincerely on the happy passage of my sister and the rest of your family through the smallpox. Surely the daily instances, which present themselves, of the amazing benefits of inoculation, must make converts of the most rigid opposers, and bring on a repeal of that most impolitic law which restrains it.1
Our affairs at the northward have taken a turn not more unfortunate than unexpected. The public papers will convey every information that I can on this subject. To these therefore I shall refer, with this addition, that a public enquiry is ordered into the conduct of the genl officers in that department, which will give them an opportunity of justifying their conduct, or the publick one of making examples. This however will not retrieve the misfortune; for certain it is, that this affair has cast a dark shade upon a very bright prospect, our accounts from that quarter being very gloomy; but some reinforcements being sent up, and some good officers, it is to be hoped the cloud will, in time, dispel.2 One thing absolutely necessary, is that all the Gentlemen, in every State, should exert themselves to have their quota of Troops compleated; for, believe me, the whole are most shamefully deficient.
I have from the first been among those few, who never built much upon a French war. I ever did, and still do think, they never meant more than to give us a kind of underhand assistance; that is, to supply us with arms, &c. for our money and trade. This may, indeed, if G. B. has spirit, and strength to resent it, bring on a war; but the declaration, if on either side, must, I am convinced, come from the last mentioned power.
I have taken Col. P. P. Thornton into my family as an extra aid. This, I dare say, his own merit, as well as the great worth of his father, well entitles him to. My love and best wishes are presented to my sister and the rest of your family, and, with sincerest affection, believe and be assured, I am, &c.
P. S. Aug. 9th. Being disappointed in sending this letter I have to add that we have no further account of the Enemy’s Fleet and therefore concluding that they are gone to the Eastward we have again turned our faces that way and shall move slow till we get some account of it.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, nearGermantown, 9 August, 1777.
I have been duly honored with your Letter of yesterday, and with its Enclosures. I shall pay attention to the Resolves transmitted; and, as soon as circumstances admit, shall propose to Genl Howe an exchange between Lt-Colo Campbell and the Hessian field-officers, and a like number of ours, of equal rank in his Hands.1 I would beg leave to lay before Congress a copy of a Report made by a board of Genl officers, held on the 7th instt, to consult of several matters respecting the army. In the course of their deliberation they took into consideration the subject reported. I shall only add, that this matter has been long complained of by the officers, and the more so as the Indulgence they pray could not nor can be ever attended with the least possible injury to the public, and is what I believe is allowed in most armies. Congress, I am persuaded, will give it their attention, and, if no good objections of a public nature appear against the measure, will grant what the officers wish and the Board have recommended.
I perceive by the Resolves of the 30th Ulto. & 1st Inst. for recalling Genls Schuyler and St. Clair, that they are directed to repair to Head-qu’rs. I also find that a committee had been resolved on, to digest a mode for inquiring into the Reasons for evacuating Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, and into the conduct of the Genl. officers in the northern department at the time of the evacuation. As these gentn. have received the Letter upon this Subject by this time, and will probably be down in the course of a few days, I shall be glad to be informed what I am to do with ’em when they arrive. I may be then at a great distance from this, and, in such case, should be at a loss what to say, or how to conduct myself respecting them, without receiving some directions, which I request to be favored with by the earliest opportunity. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Headquarters, Camp, nearGerman Town,
The disappearance of the enemy’s fleet for so many days rendering it rather improbable, that they will again return, I have thought it adviseable to remove the army back to Coryell’s where it will be near enough to succor Philadelphia, should the enemy contrary to appearances still make that the object of their next operations, and will be so much the more conveniently situated to proceed to the Northward, should the event of the present ambiguous and perplexing situation of things call them that way. I was the more inclined to this step, as the nearness of the army to the city, beside other disadvantages, afforded a temptation both to officers and men to indulge themselves in licenses inconsistent with discipline and order, and consequently of a very injurious tendency.1
But before my departure, I esteem it my duty to communicate to Congress the result of my examination into the nature of the River defence proper to be adopted according to the means in our possession, to prevent the success of any attempt upon Philadelphia by water.—I therefore beg leave to lay before Congress what appears to me most eligible, considering all circumstances, and comparing my own observations, with the different opinions of the Gentlemen, whom I consulted on the occasion.
It is generally a well founded maxim, that we ought to endeavor to reduce our defence as much as possible to a certainty, by collecting our strength and making all our preparations at one point, rather than to risk its being weak and ineffectual every where, by dividing our attention and force to different objects. In doing this, we may disable ourselves from acting with sufficient vigor any where, and a misfortune in one place may pave the way for a similar one in another. In our circumstances, we have neither men, cannon, nor any thing else to spare, and perhaps cannot with propriety hazard them on objects which being attended with the greatest success we can promise ourselves, can be productive of only partial and indicisive advantages, and which may possibly fail of the end proposed, may have some serious ill-consequences, and must at all events have some disadvantages.
It is then to be considered, where our defence can be most effectually made,—whether at Billingsport, or at Fort Island.
It appears to me, that the last deserves greatly the preference. Billingsport has but one row of Chevaux de frize, Fort Island has three; and in addition to them, a boom and another Chevaux de frize, ready to be sunk in the channel, on the approach of the enemy; of course the obstructions in this respect are four times as great at the one as at the other. The Gallies and floating batteries, that could be brought for the defence of the chevaux de frize at Billingsport, would be unable to maintain their station, when once the enemy were in possession of the commanding ground on the Jersey side, to which they would be entirely exposed, and notwithstanding the works raising there, even supposing them complete, the strongest advocates for making our defence in this place do not pretend, that that event can be protracted more than fifteen or twenty days at most, at the end of which time, we should be obliged with the loss of our cannon at least to abandon the defence, and leave it in the power of the enemy to remove or destroy the chevaux de frize at pleasure. Nor is it by any means certain that a single row of chevaux de frize would be an impenetrable barrier to the enemy’s ships. Experiments have been made that lead to a contrary supposition, and if they should hazard one, which it might be well worth their while to do, with some of their less valuable ships, under favor of a leading breeze and tide, and should succeed in it,—the consequence might be the loss of our gallies and floating batteries, which I apprehend might be intercepted, and with the assistance of their gallies and small armed vessels taken, and this would greatly weaken the opposition we might otherwise give at Fort Island, and tend powerfully to render it abortive. But if they should not attempt this, contenting themselves with safer though slower operations, I have already observed, that it is agreed, on all hands, in fifteen or twenty days they would be able to possess themselves of infallible means of frustrating our opposition there, by the capture of our works; and if we add to this, that it might very possibly happen in less time,—if from no other cause,—yet from the garrison being intimidated, by a consciousness of its own inferiority and inability to support itself against a so much superior force of numbers,—which might occasion a conduct destructive to itself—there will remain no sufficient reasons to justify the making this the principal point of defence.
At Fort Island the boom and chevaux de frize are an ample security against any forcible impression of the enemy’s ships which it would be imprudent in them to attempt. On the Jersey side the situation of the ground is such, that the gallies, floating batteries and forts employed in the defence of the obstructions would have little to fear from any batteries erected there. Red-bank seems, by its elevation to be the only advantageous spot for annoying them; but as it is computed to be above 1900 yards from Fort Island, the distance is rather too great to allow any battery raised there to act with so much effect as to be able to silence our fire. On this side, the ground by dykes and sluices may be laid under water to so considerable an extent as to leave no danger of our River force being annoyed from thence; for which purpose suitable precautions ought, at once, to be made, against it may be necessary to carry them into effect.
But, though a battery upon Red-bank, would not in my apprehension, be able to prevent the efficacy of our defence or give any material disturbance to Fort Island, in particular, yet it might serve to make the situation of some of our gallies rather uneasy; and this perhaps makes it worth while to pre-occupy it in order to keep it out of the enemy’s hands, erecting a small but strong work there capable of containing about two hundred men, with six or eight pieces of light cannon, and a proportionable quantity of stores. As the approaches to it are difficult on account of the adjacent creeks, and a communication can be kept open between it and our army, by which means the garrison might receive succors from time to time, though we could not expect to make it impregnable, yet we should have a prospect of holding it much longer than we could the work at Billingsport.
In the position, which from my present view of it, I should think it best for our army to take, the left wing of it would be nearly opposite to Red-bank, and therefore in a condition to relieve and support it; whereas Billingsport being more remote from the probable position of the army, and detached from any other work, could not easily derive any assistance from without and must rely wholly upon its own strength.
Either at Billingsport or at Fort Island, I believe there is not much to be apprehended from the fire of the enemy’s ships unaided by land batteries; For as by the information of those who ought to be acquainted with the fact, not more than three ships can act abreast at a time at either place, and as the gallies, not requiring the same depth of water, can extend themselves at pleasure, and besides carry a superior weight of metal to that which frigates commonly have, a much superior fire could be opposed to them than any they could bring, and from the difference of size and make between the frigates and gallies, to much better effect than theirs. The comparative extent of the River at Billingsport and at Fort Island has been assigned as a motive of preference to the former, the river being narrower there than at the latter, and supposed to admit of fewer ships operating at a time; but as it is asserted by the gentlemen in the River department, that the sand banks and shallowness of the River in most places near Fort Island, compensate for the width of it and make it impossible for more than three ships to act together at a time, this reason of preferring the position at Billingsport seems to have no foundation. And if we consider, that our whole force of gallies and floating batteries, would be collected at Fort Island, assisted by the fort itself and that it would not be safe to trust them all out for the defence of Billingsport, for fear of the disaster already suggested, it seems evident enough that this is the place where our defence may be most successfully made.
One of the most weighty considerations with me is, that our Army as before intimated, could more conveniently co-operate with the defence by water here than at Billingsport. The ground on this side is better situated here than at the other place, and the Army being so much nearer the city, it is so much the less likely, that the enemy should be able, by a circuitous rout to fall into the rear of it and separate it from the city, which is a circumstance that ought carefully to be attended to.
Some Gentlemen are of opinion that our principal dependence ought to be upon Fort Island and its appendages; but at the same time, that we should make a part of our defence at Billingsport proposing for that purpose that the works there should be continued on the new contracted scale to be garrisoned by four or five hundred men. The reasons for this are—that it would serve to delay the enemy and give our army time to come up, should it be at any distance and that it would prevent those disagreeable impressions which never fail to accompany the abandoning works that have been once raised and plans that have been once in execution; especially when the persons concerned in the defence of them repose a degree of confidence in them;—which is said to be the case in the present instance. But these reasons may perhaps not be so conclusive as ’tis imagined;—for ’tis a question whether, if our army was so remote as to make such a delay necessary, the enemy would embarass themselves with removing the water obstructions in the first place, but would not rather debark and make a rapid march by land; possessing themselves of the city and of those positions which would make the surrender of the gallies, &c., in some sort a natural consequence; and it is worthy of consideration, whether the abandoning the works begun at this time, which will probably allow some leisure for any disagreeable impressions it might make to be effaced, will not be less injurious than the abandoning them hereafter when they have cost more expence, time and labor, and in the critical moment of an attack, when every misfortune, and the loss of the most inconsiderable post is too apt to have a much worse influence on the mind than the real importance of it will justify. Add to this the possibility that the garrison dismayed at the approach of numbers so superior to their own, might not answer the end expected from them, and might even be lost by their timidity—the certainty of losing the cannon after the time limited for the defence and thereby weakening that of the upper position—the chance of losing the gallies and floating batteries, requisite for covering the chevaux de frize, by a hazardous and successful attempt to break through them, and the garrison with them, which would fall of course upon such an event,—It is however, submitted to Congress to ballance the advantages and disadvantages and determine accordingly. I would only beg leave to give it clearly as my opinion, that our principal dependence ought to be upon Fort Island and the obstructions there, and that Billingsport ought not by any means to be defended, more than as a secondary object.
And to that end, I would recommend that the works on Fort Island, which on their present construction are, by no means calculated for the defence of the Chevaux de frize be immediately altered and adapted to that purpose, taking care, at the same time, to make them defensible with a small number of men against any sudden attempt to land in boats and carry them by assault.—But whatever scheme is pursued, I could wish the greatest diligence and despatch may be used in bringing it to maturity; for though the danger which lately threatened seems to have subsided, there is no knowing how soon it may return and certainly it will be prudent to do every thing in our power to be prepared for it, as we can lose nothing by being so, and may lose a great deal by neglecting to improve the interval of leisure they have given us should it be their intention to revisit this quarter. As the means to this—it will be necessary to furnish Mr. Coudray to whom the Superintendency of those works is intrusted, with a competent number of workmen, tools, and what other things he may want to enable him to carry them on with propriety, ease and expedition.
On the whole I am of opinion that the obstructions in the River, with the help of gallies, floating batteries, and with tolerable industry to put the land works in a proper state, will be extremely formidable to the enemy and authorise a reasonable expectation of their being effectual. The fire ships also will contribute to this end, for though there are many obstacles that render their success precarious, and a happy concurrence of circumstances is necessary towards it, any of which failing may disappoint the project, and there is therefore no room to be sanguine, yet there is some probability of its succeeding and they will be at least an embarassment and terror to the enemy, and will oblige them to use precautions inconvenient to them and serviceable to us.
As an accurate knowledge of the country is essential to a good defence and as the enemy’s approach may be sudden and we may be called to act, without having time, when it happens, to examine it sufficiently if it is not done beforehand, it would answer a valuable purpose to have it immediately carefully reconnoitred, and sketches taken of all the landing places, great roads and bye-paths, In camping grounds, heights, rivers, creeks, morasses, and every thing that it can be of any importance to know.
Marcus Hook seems to be the most advanced place at which it is conjectured the enemy will land, the survey should therefore comprehend all the country between that & Philia.
Mr. Du Coudray has offered his services with his Engineers to do this business, if authorized by Congress, only requiring that they be supplied with horses and a hand or two. If Congress approve of it, I shall be glad they may be desired to enter upon it, without loss of time. I have the honor, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
Camp, inBucks County, 11 August, 1777.
I recd yours of the 8th instant at this place. I was upon the march with the Army to recross the Delaware, upon a supposition that the Fleet had certainly gone to the eastward; but I was last night overtaken by an Express from Philadelphia, with an account that they had been seen on the 7th instant off Sinepuxent Inlet, about sixteen Leagues to the southward of the Capes of Delaware. Upon this I have halted for further intelligence. Under the present Situation of Affairs I can give you no better direction, than to remain at your post and collect all the force, that you possibly can. The Season of the Year is, to be sure, inconvenient for the militia to be out; but the necessity of the case requires that as many as possibly can, must be retained in service; for if Genl Burgoyne persists in his advance upon our northern army, we must afford them support, or suffer him to make himself master of all the Country above.
My last letter to you directed you to consider well, whether you could spare the two New York Regiments to Genl Schuyler’s army. If Genl Clinton is left upon York Island with the number of men you mention, it is undoubtedly for some other Reason, than merely to keep the post. It is probably to attack you below, while Burgoyne comes down upon you. It is a matter of great consequence to ascertain that fact. Deserters and people of that class always speak of numbers from report; indeed scarce any person can form a judgment, except they see the troops paraded and can count their divisions. But if you can by any means obtain a list of the Regiments left upon the Island, we can compute the number of men within a few hundreds, over or under. I beg you will use every method to come at a knowledge of this. Let your Spies also be very particular in their inquiry, whether Genl Clinton is actually upon the Island, for an officer of his rank and military estimation would scarcely be left to keep garrison only.1
It has been reported, that there was a collection of Wagons and Horses making at Kingsbridge; if so, it can be for no purpose but to move out; and this therefore, is another fact of which you should endeavour to know the truth. Till you are fully satisfied in the above particulars, I think you should upon no account keep any more than light parties down towards Kings Bridge; for if there is any design against your post from that Quarter, they might by a sudden embarkation, and a favorable Wind, get between you and the mountains, should you fall down with any considerable Body. I am glad to hear that Govr Clinton has determined to resume the command of Fort Montgomery, for there cannot be a properer man upon every account. I am, &c.2
TO LIEUTENANTS BIRD, DORSEY, CRAIG, MOORE, AND GRAY.1
Camp at the Cross Roads, Augt. 15, 1777.
In answer to your respective Letters without date, but presented to me yesterday, you will please to be inform’d
First, that the pay of the Horse officers was fixed in December last, and at the same rates now existing; and
Secondly that I am not conscious of ever having said, or done any thing, that could lead to a belief, that the Rank of a Lieut. of Horse was to be equal to a Captain of foot for the obvious reasons, that neither justice, or usage, would authorize it.
How it came to pass, then, that you should conceive your selves entitled to the Rank and pay of such officers is neither my business, nor Inclination to enquire into—This however I shall add,—that if your respective applications to resign, is the effect of hasty resolutions, you may take till to-morrow to reconsider, and recall your Letters.—But if on the other hand you shd then be in the same mind, I shall be ready to receive your Commissions if they have been deliver’d or give dismissions if they have not.—
Your wishes to resign at such a period as this (after time is allowed for reconsideration) will be sufficient evidence with me, that it is a disinclination to the Service, and not the mere disappointment of Rank and pay, that causes it; and therefore it may be unnecessary for me to add, that any future application from either of you to get into the Continental Service will be improper, and as far as it is in my power to make it so unavailing—I am &c.1
TO GOVERNOR CLINTON.
Camp, at Cross Roads, 16 August, 1777.
Your favor of the 13th with the inclosed papers are before me.—
I wish the accounts of the two actions near Fort Schuyler had been more clear and intelligible than they are, as more dependence could then be placed on the authoriticity of the particulars, and a stronger assurance formed of the advantages being as fully on our side as they are there represented. If the loss of some of their most spirited leaders which happened on these occasions do not operate too forcibly on the minds of the people in that quarter, I should imagine these little successes might be productive of valuable consequences. The Indians, we know are not a very persevering people, but on the contrary are apt to be discouraged by the most trifling miscarriages; and two rebuffs like these would be no inconsiderable inducements with them to abandon the British troops, and leave them to prosecute the business alone.
These little reverses of fortune will also have their influence, in abating that confidence, which their former uninterrupted success has inspired into the enemy; and will tend proportionably to revive the drooping spirits of our army—I shall be obliged to you when you receive any more explicit intelligence of what has happened to communicate it to me.
I see, with the most sensible pleasure, the exertions of your State, dismembered as it is, and under every discouragement and disadvantage. I lament, that any causes are sufficiently powerful to prevent that effectual aid from your eastern neighbors, which the interest of the public cause, and the immediate safety of your particular State, so pressingly demand at this time. But, though it is dilatory in coming, I cannot but hope it will still come, before it is too late. I imagine one cause, and not the least material, of their delay, is an apprehension of General Howe’s army. It were to be wished, his designs were once reduced to a certainty. This I should be in hopes would serve to remove that inactivity and indecision, which I believe proceed in a great measure from suspense and uncertainty. I am however advised, that a body of New Hampshire militia, under General Stark, had joined General Lincoln at Bennington, and another of Massachusetts militia, was partly arrived, and the rest arriving at the same place. A tolerable body of men once collected there would make Mr. Burgoyne anxious for his rear, oblige him to advance circumspectly, and to leave such strong posts behind, as must make his main body very weak, and extremely capable of being repulsed by the force we shall have in front. I should not be very uneasy for the issue, if I could once see our northern army recovered from their present dejection, and restored to a tolerable degree of confidence and animation.
In addition to the two regiments, that are gone from Peekskill, I am forwarding as fast as possible, to join the northern army, Colonel Morgan’s corps of riflemen, amounting to about five hundred. These are all chosen men, selected from the army at large, well acquainted with the use of rifles, and with that mode of fighting, which is necessary to make them a good counterpoise to the Indians; and have distinguished themselves on a variety of occasions, since the formation of the corps, in skirmishes with the enemy. I expect the most eminent services from them; and I shall be mistaken if their presence does not go far towards producing a general desertion among the savages. I should think it would be well, even before their arrival, to begin to circulate these ideas, with proper embellishments, throughout the country and in the army; and to take pains to communicate them to the enemy. It would not be amiss, among other things, to magnify numbers.1 I am of opinion, with the Council of Safety, that your presence to the northward might have a very happy influence, and, if it were compatible with the many other calls there are and will be upon you, I could wish to see you with the northern army at the head of the militia of your State.
From some expressions in a letter, which I have seen, written by General Lincoln to General Schuyler, I am led to infer, it is in contemplation to unite all the militia and Continental troops in one body, and make an opposition wholly in front. If this is really the intention, I should think it a very ineligible plan. An enemy can always act with more vigor and effect, when they have nothing to apprehend for their flanks and rear, than when they have; and it is one of the most approved and most universally practised manœuvers of war, to keep their fears continually awake on these accounts, and, when circumstances permit, to be actually in condition to give them serious annoyance in those parts. Independent of the inconveniences, that attend a situation, where the rear and flanks are constantly exposed to the insults of light parties, which may be at every moment harassing them; the necessity of never losing sight of the means of a secure retreat, which ought to be the first object of an officer’s care, must be exceedingly embarrassing, where there is a force in such a position as to endanger it. If a respectable body of men were to be stationed on the Grants, it would undoubtedly have the effects intimated above, would render it not a little difficult for General Burgoyne to keep the necessary communication open; and they would frequently afford opportunities of intercepting his convoys. If there should be none there, he might advance with security, leaving small posts behind, and might draw his supplies regularly and without interruption; than which nothing could tend more to facilitate his operations and give them success. These reasons make it clearly my opinion, that a sufficient body of militia should always be reserved in a situation proper to answer those purposes. If there should be more collected, than is requisite for this use, the surplusage may with propriety be added to the main body of the army. I am not, however, so fully acquainted with every circumstance, that ought to be taken into consideration, as to pretend to do any thing more than advise in the matter. Let those on the spot determine and act as appears to them most prudent. I am, &c.
P. S. It is most probable that Genl Schuyler will have put it out of the Enemy’s power to avail themselves of the convenience of Water carriage, by removing all boats out of the way. If however this necessary precaution should not have occurred to him, it would be proper to remind him that all means of facilitating their progress down the river should be cut off as speedily as possible.1
TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, IN PARIS.
Head-Quarters, 17 August, 1777.
I have been honored with your favor of the 2d of April by Monsieur de Cenis, written in behalf of that gentleman on the credit of Monsieur Turgot’s recommendation. I should have been happy, had it been in my power, in deference to your recommendation, founded upon that of so respectable a character as Monsieur Turgot, to afford Monsieur de Cenis the encouragement, to which his zeal and trouble in coming to America to offer his services give him a claim to; but such is the situation of things in our army at this time, that I am necessarily deprived of that satisfaction. Our troops being already formed and fully officered, and the number of foreign gentlemen already commissioned and continually arriving with fresh applications, throw such obstacles in the way of any future appointments, that every new arrival is only a new source of embarrassment to Congress and myself, and of disappointment and chagrin to the gentlemen, who come over. Had there been only a few to provide for, we might have found employment for them in a way advantageous to the service and honorable to themselves; but, as they have come over in such crowds, we either must not employ them, or we must do it at the expense of one half of the officers of the army; which you must be sensible would be attended with the most ruinous effects, and could not fail to occasion a general discontent. It is impossible for these gentlemen to raise men for themselves; and it would be equally impolitic and unjust to displace others, who have been at all the trouble and at considerable expense in raising corps, in order to give them the command. Even where vacancies happen, there are always those, who have a right of succession by seniority, and who are as tenacious of this right as of the places they actually hold; and in this they are justified by the common principle and practice of all armies, and by resolutions of Congress. Were these vacancies to be filled by the foreign officers, it would not only cause the resignation of those, who expect to succeed to them, but it would serve to disgust others, both through friendship to them, and from an apprehension of their being liable to the same inconvenience themselves. This, by rendering the hope of preferment precarious, would remove one of the principal springs of emulation, absolutely necessary to be upheld in an army.
Besides this difficulty, the error we at first fell into, of prodigally bestowing rank upon foreigners, without examining properly their pretensions, having led us to confer high ranks upon those who had none, or of a very inferior degree, in their own country, it now happens, that those who have really good pretensions, who are men of character, abilities, and rank, will not be contented unless they are introduced into some of the highest stations of the army, in which, it needs no arguments to convince you, it is impossible to gratify them. Hence their dissatisfaction and the difficulty of employing them are increased. These obstacles reduce us to this dilemma: either we must refuse to commission them at all, and leave all the expense, trouble, and risk, that have attended their coming over, uncompensated; or we must commission them without being able to incorporate or employ them; by which means enjoying the public pay and an unmeaning rank, they must submit to the mortification of being mere ciphers in the army. This last, to some of them, may not be disagreeable; but to men of sentiment, and who are actuated by a principle of honor and a desire to distinguish themselves, it must be humiliating and irksome in the extreme.
From these considerations it would be both prudent and just to discourage their coming over, by candidly opening the difficulties they have to encounter; and if, after that, they will persist in it, they can only blame themselves. I am sensible, Sir, that it is a delicate and perplexing task to refuse applications of persons patronized, (as I suppose often happens,) by some of the first characters in the kingdom where you are, and whose favor it is of importance to conciliate; but I beg leave to suggest, whether it would not be better to do that, than by compliance to expose them to those mortifications, which they must unavoidably experience, and which they are too apt to impute to other causes than the true, and may represent under very disadvantageous colors. Permit me also to observe to you, that even where you do not promise any thing, but simply give a line of recommendation, they draw as strong an assurance of success from that as from a positive engagement, and estimate the hardship of a disappointment nearly the same in the one case as in the other. I am, &c.1
TO BENJAMIN HARRISON, IN CONGRESS.
Neshaminy Bridge, 19 August, 1777.
If I did not misunderstand what you or some other member of Congress said to me, respecting the appointment of the Marquis de Lafayette, he has misconceived the design of his appointment, or Congress did not understand the extent of his views; for certain It is, If I understood him, that he does not conceive his commission is merely honorary, but given with a view to command a division of this army. It is true he has said, that he is young and inexperienced, but at the same time has always accompanied it with a hint, that, so soon as I shall think him fit for the command of a division, he shall be ready to enter upon the duties of it, and in the mean time has offered his service for a smaller command; to which I may add, that he has actually applied to me, by direction he says from Mr. Hancock, for commissions for his Two aids-de-camp.
What the designs of Congress respecting this Gentleman were, and what line of conduct I am to pursue to comply with their design & his expectations, I know no more than the child unborn, and beg to be instructed. If Congress meant, that this rank should be unaccompanied by command, I wish it had been sufficiently explained to him. If, on the other hand, it was intended to vest him with all the powers of a major-general, why have I been led into a contrary belief, and left in the dark with respect to my own conduct towards him? This difficulty, with the numberless applications for Employment by Foreigners, under their respective appointments, adds no small embarrassment to a command, which, without it, is abundantly perplexed by the different tempers I have to do with, & different modes which the respective States have pursued to nominate & ar[range] their officers; the combination of all which is but a too just representation of a great chaos, from whence we are endeavoring, how successfully time can only tell, to draw some regularity and order.
I was going to address Congress for Instructions in the case of the Marquis de Lafayette, but upon second thought concluded to ask some direction of my conduct in this matter through a member, and therefore have imposed this task upon you. Let me beseech you then, my good Sir, to give me the sentiments of Congress on this matter, that I may endeavor, as far as it is in my power, to comply with them. With respect to commissions for his aid-de-camps, I told him that I should write to Mr. Hancock about them, and I wish to be instructed. The Marquis is now in Philadelphia, but expected up this day or to-morrow. With sincere regard, I am, &c.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL WAYNE.
Neshamini Camp, 19 August, 1777.
I wish thro’ you, Sir, to return my thanks to the Pennsylvania officers, who subscribed the Memorial you delivered me a few days since, for the obliging sentiments they are pleased to entertain of me—At the same time, you will inform them, that I am fully sensible of the justice, in which their Complaint respecting the exorbitant price of Goods and necessaries is founded, and that I painfully foresee the disagreeable consequences the measure leads to. My wishes are, that the Abuse of which they complain, should be restrained, but I know not how it is to be effected. I have represented the matter to the Congress, and have the most implicit confidence, that they will adopt any means that are practicable, to remedy the Evil. They feel it sensibly—and it is felt by all, but a Mode of Redress, I fear, will be difficult to find, as it has ever been in instances of a like nature. I am not sanguine in my expectations, that they will remove the grievance totally, yet I should hope that it may be done in part, thro’ their deliberations and the interposition of the Legislative and Executive powers in the several States. I can only assure the Gentlemen, I shall ever be happy in affording my exertions to suppress any public abuses, so far as shall be compatible with my situation. More, I am persuaded, they will never wish or expect of me. * * *
In respect to the period, from which the augmented pay is to be drawn, the Line has been already settled by Congress. They determined, that the officers appointed to serve in the present Army should receive it from the time of their appointments by their respective States. In conformity to this Rule, they have been paid without deviation, that I recollect. If there are any who have not, it has been owing to their own omissions—or if the augmented pay has been extended in any case to a remoter period for its commencement, it escaped my observation. I would also add, that if this Resolution had not been passed, I should not have considered myself authorized to grant Warrants for the augmented pay of any time preceding the 1st of January; conceiving that the old would have continued till the last of December, that being the Day when the service of the late Army generally expired,—and that the augmented pay was intended for the new. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Head-Quarters,Bucks Coty, 20 August, 1777.
By a Letter from Genl Schuyler of the 13th Instant it appears, that you had not reach’d Stillwater at that time; Since which I have not had any Accounts from you, but expect you had arriv’d there soon after that date. From the various representations made to me of the disadvantage the army lay under, particularly the Militia, from an apprehension of the Indian Mode of Fighting, I have despatched Colo. Morgan with his Corps of Riflemen to your assistance, & expect they will be with you in eight days from this date. This Corps I have great dependence on, & have no doubt but they will be exceedingly useful; as a check given to the Savages, & keeping them within proper Bounds, will prevent Genl Burgoyne from getting Intelligence as formerly, & animate your other Troops from a Sense of their being more on an equality with the Enemy.1 Coles Cortlandt’s and Colonel Livingston’s Regiments are also on their way from Peekskill to Join you. They must of course be with you in a very few days. With these Reinforcements, besides the Militia under General Lincoln, (which by this time must be pretty considerable,) I am in hopes you will find yourself at least equal to stop the Progress of Mr. Burgoyne, &, by cutting of his supplies of Provision, &ca to render his situation very ineligible.
Since the Enemy’s fleet was seen off Sinepuxent, the 8th Inst, we have no accts from them, which can be depended on. I am now of opinion, that Charles Town is the present object of General Howe’s attention, though for what sufficient reason, unless he expected to drag this army after him by appearing at different places, & thereby leave the Country open for Genl Clinton to March out and endeavor to form a Junction with Genl Burgoyne, I am at a loss to determine. General Schuyler’s sending a Reinforcement up to Fort Schuyler I think was absolutely necessary; & I am of opinion, that particular attention should be paid to the Inroads leading to that quarter, as a Successful Stroke of the Enemy there might be a means of encouraging the whole of the Six Nations to unite against us. I am, Sir, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Neshaminy Camp, 21 August, 1777.
From the time which has elapsed since General Howe departed from the Capes of Delaware, there is the strongest reason to conclude, that He is gone either far to the Eastward or Southward, and with a design to execute some determin’d plan. The danger of the sea, the injury his Troops & horses must sustain from being so long confin’d, the loss of time so late in the campaign, will scarcely admit a supposition that he is merely making a feint, and still intends to return either to the Delaware or the North River without performing some enterprise first in another quarter. The probability is in favor of a Southern expedition, because he has been seen, since his departure from the Capes, off Sinepuxent, steering a Southern course; and because, had his destination been to the eastward, his arrival there, from the general state of the Winds, must have announced it before this, or his fleet wo’ld have been discovered by some of the cruisers on that coast.
If he is gone to the Southward, he must be gone far that way; for, had the Chesapeake Bay been his object, he would have been there long since, and the fact well established. Beyond that, there is no place short of Charlestown of sufficient importance to engage his attention. The extensive commerce, the vast accumulation of military and other stores in that Town and its dependencies, with the eclat it would give his arms if he should unfortunately take it, afford him stronger inducements to direct his operations there, than he could possibly have elsewhere. Matters being thus circumstanced, an important question arises; how this army is to be employed. If his intentions are such as I have supposed them, it appears to me that an attempt to follow him would not only be fruitless, but would be attended with the most ruinous consequences. The distance is so immense, that Genl Howe might accomplish every purpose he had in view, before we could possibly arrive to oppose him; and so long a march through an unhealthy climate at this season would debilitate and waste a principal part of our force. Added to this, after we had made a considerable progress, he might easily reëmbark his Troops and turn his arms against Philadelphia or elsewhere, as he should think proper, without our being in a condition to give the least aid.
As these, and many other reasons, which will readily occur to Congress, will show the impracticability of our counteracting Genl Howe with any good effect in that Quarter, we have no other alternative left than to remain here Idle & inactive, on the remote probability of his returning this way, or to proceed towards Hudson’s River, with a view of opposing Genl Burgoyne, or making an attempt on York Island, as the situation of affairs shall point out. A successful stroke with respect to either wo’d be attended with the most signal advantages, and would be the best compensation we could make for any losses we may sustain to the southward. Besides these considerations, if, after all our conjectures and reasoning upon the subject, Genl Howe should be gone to the eastward to coöperate with Mr. Burgoyne, the army will be, by the movement proposed, so far on its way, to prevent, I hope, the success of his enterprise.
The above reasons led me to call a Council of Genl officers this morning, to take the Subject of removing the Troops from hence into consideration; and I am happy to inform Congress, they were in sentiments with me upon the occasion, as they will perceive by a copy of the proceedings then had, which I do myself the honor of laying before them. Nevertheless, as it is a movement which may involve the most important consequences, I have thought proper to submit it to Congress for their deliberation & decision. If it is deemed expedient, we have perhaps not a moment to lose in carrying it into execution; and, under this persuasion, I have sent Colol Hamilton, one of my aids, who will have the honor of delivering this, to bring me the result of their opinion.1 As the northern department has been all along considered separate, & in some measure distinct, and there are special Resolves vesting the command in particular persons,—in case it should hereafter appear eligible to unite the Two Armies, it may perhaps be necessary that Congress should place the matter upon such a footing as to remove all Scruples or difficulties about the command, that could possibly arise on my arrival there. This I request, from a disposition to Harmony, & from my knowing the ill & fatal consequences that have often arisen from such controversies, and not from the most distant apprehension, that one would take place upon such an event. The thing however is possible; and to guard against it can do no injury. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. That I may not appear inconsistent, to advise and to act before I obtain an opinion, I beg leave to mention, that I shall move the army to the Delaware to-morrow morning, to change their Ground at any rate, as their present encampment begins to be disagreeable, and would injure their Health in a short time. Our forage also begins to grow scarce here.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.2
Camp, at Cross Roads, 22 August, 1777.
I am honored with your favor containing the intelligence of the enemy’s arrival in Chesapeake bay, and the resolution of Congress thereupon. I have, in consequence of this account, sent orders to General Nash immediately to embark his brigade and Col Procter’s corps of artillery, if vessels can be procured for the purpose, and to proceed to Chester; or, if vessels cannot be provided, to hasten towards that place by land with all the despatch he can. I have also directed General Sullivan to join this army with his division as speedily as possible, and I have issued orders for all the troops here to be in motion to-morrow morning very early, with intention to march them towards Philadelphia. I am happy to find Congress have ordered the removal of the stores from Lancaster and York to places of greater safety, which is, without doubt, a very proper and necessary measure. With much respect and esteem, I have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient servant.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
23 August, 1777.
I beg leave to inform you, that the army marched early this morning, and, I expect, will encamp this Evening within Five or Six miles of Philadelphia. To-morrow morning it will move again, and I think to march It thro’ the city, but without halting. I am induced to do this, from the opinion of Several of my officers and many Friends in Philadelphia, that it may have some influence on the minds of the disaffected there, and those who are Dupes to their artifices and opinions. The march will be down Front and up Chesnut street, and I presume about Seven o’clock.1 Notwithstanding the arrival of the Enemy’s Fleet in the Chesapeake Bay, and the seeming probability that Genl Howe will debark his Troops and attempt something, yet I would take the liberty to mention, that I think the several works for the defence of the city should be carried on with the usual industry, and that no pains should be omitted to complete ’em. I would also advise, that the same Look-outs for intelligence should be continued at the Capes, and the earliest information communicated of any thing material; for, tho’ the Fleet is in Chesapeake Bay, the Enemy may push in a number of vessels with Troops, and make an effort to effect some stroke agst. Philadelphia by surprise. Such an event does not seem probable while they have a large show of Force in a neighboring State; but it will be prudent to guard against it. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. I think some directions should be given Genl. Armstrong respecting the Militia.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Wilmington, six o’clock, P.M.,
The enclosed intelligence has just come to my hands. Genl Greene’s and General Stephen’s divisions are within a few miles of this place. I shall order them to march immediately here.1 The two other divisons halted this day at Derby to refresh themselves; but they will come on as expeditiously as possible. There are about five hundred Pennsylvania militia at Chester and Marcus Hook, that are armed; there are a number more unarmed. I have ordered all the armed immediately down.2 I do not know what number of militia of this State are yet collected; but I am told they turn out with great alacrity. There are a quantity of public and private stores at the Head of Elk, which I am afraid will fall into the Enemy’s hands, if they advance quickly; among others, there is a considerable parcel of Salt. Every attempt will be made to save that. When I get my force collected, I shall dispose of it in the most advantageous manner in my Power. To this end I purpose to view the Grounds towards the Enemy in the morning. I am yet a stranger to them.3 I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Wilmington, 27 August, 1777.
I this morning returned from the Head of Elk, which I left last night. In respect to the Enemy, I have nothing new to communicate. They remain where they debarked at first. I could not find out from inquiry what number is landed, nor form an Estimate of It from the distant view I had of their Encampment. But few Tents were to be seen from Iron Hill and Gray’s Hill, which are the only Eminences about Elk. I am happy to inform you, that all the public Stores are removed from thence, except about seven Thousand Bushels of corn. This I urged the commissary there to get off as soon as possible, and hope it will be effected in the course of a few days, if the enemy should not prevent it, which their situation gives them but too easy an opportunity of doing. The scarcity of Teams in proportion to the demand will render the removal rather tedious, tho’ I have directed the qr. master to send some from hence to expedite the measure. A part of the Delaware militia are stationed there1 ; and about nine Hundred more from Pennsylvania are now on the march that way. I also intended to move part of the army that way to-day, but am under the necessity of deferg. it till their arms are put in order, and they are furnished with ammunition, both having been greatly injured by the Heavy Rain that fell yesterday and last night.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
Wilmington, 27 August, 1777.
I have received your two favors, both of the 24th, informing me of the particulars of an expedition you have lately made to Staten Island. It is unfortunate, that an affair, which had so prosperous a beginning, should have terminated so disagreeably, as in a great measure to defeat the good consequences, that might have attended it. I am however glad to hear, that the officers and men distinguished themselves by their good behavior; and, if there are any, who behaved more remarkably well than others, I should be happy to take all the notice of them consistent with propriety, that their conduct may appear to merit. I am not sufficiently acquainted with circumstances to form a certain judgment of what might have been expected from this expedition; but from the view I have of them, and from your own representation of the matter, the situation of the enemy seems to have been such, as afforded an opportunity of reaping much more decisive advantages than were in fact gained.
As your division must no doubt have been greatly harassed in this movement, their health might be very much injured by pressing them too hard in their march to join me. I would therefore wish you to spare them as much as may be necessary to avoid that inconvenience; at the same time there ought to be no delay, but what a proper attention to the health and accommodation of the men really demands. I am, &c.
TO GENERAL CADWALADER.
Wilmington, 28 August, 1777.
Genl. Howe has advanced part of his Force about Two miles this side of the Head of Elk and from the information of Deserters and prisoners, there is reason to believe he is either marching, or soon will be, towards Philadelphia. If that is his object, and of which there can be but little doubt, I think many important advantages would be derived from the militia’s hanging on his Rear or Right flank, after he leaves Elk, while he is opposed by this Army in Front or in such other way, as shall seem most adviseable from circumstances. But then, I am wholly at a loss to whom to address myself respecting the militia on the Eastern Shore, not knowing their officers or where they are assembling. The Congress thought proper to point out Genl. Smallwood and Colo. Gist to arrange and conduct them, who, owing I suppose to a miscarriage of the dispatches that were sent ’em have not yet reached this place, nor have I heard any thing of them. Matters being thus circumstanced, and as the aid of the militia is extremely necessary and no time is to be lost in obtaining it, I must request your good offices and interest in assisting to assemble, spirit up and forward them, in the best manner you can towards the Head of the Bay, that they may be in a situation to annoy the enemy should they make a push against Philadelphia; giving such advice and direction to the officers as shall appear to you necessary and proper. I know well, that your situation in this instance will be delicate and not a little embarrassing; I feel myself in that predicament; yet, I trust the exigency of our affairs will not only furnish an apology, but will fully justifie your interesting yourself upon this subject. For the requisition I have made, I shall offer no apology. It is the result of necessity and founded in the most implicit confidence that you are and will be ready upon all occasions to afford every aid in your power to advance the true interest and happiness of your country. Influenced by these considerations, I have made it, and have only to add that I am &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Wilmington, 30 August, 1777.
Since I had the honor of addressing you yesterday, nothing of importance has occurred, and the Enemy remain as they then were. I was reconnoitring the country and different Roads all yesterday, & am now setting out on the same business again. Sensible of the advantages of Light Troops, I have formed a Corps under the command of a Brigadier, by drafting a Hundred from each Brigade, which is to be constantly near the enemy, and to give ’em every possible annoyance. I have the honor to be, &c.
Ten o’clock.—This minute twenty-four British prisoners arrived, taken yesterday by Captain Lee of the light-horse.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Wilmington, 1 September, 1777.
The latest and most material intelligence, I have obtained respecting the Enemy, you will find in the enclosed papers, which I do myself the Honor of transmitting to you. How far the Enemy have it in view to extend themselves in a Line from Bay to Bay, I cannot determine, But the Idea has taken place with many; and it is said to be founded on their hints to some persons, who, from accidents in some instances, & perhaps choice in others, have had a more familiar intercourse with them. I cannot suppose they have any such design, or, if they have, that it can be more than temporary for procuring supplies of provisions.
Genl Howe’s Declaration is agreeable to his constant usage, and is what we might reasonably expect. The only difference is, the present exhibition is stiled a “Declaration.” It is another effort to seduce the people to give up their rights, and to encourage our soldiery to desert.2 The Facts contained in the Deposition of Francis Alexander, which you have also enclosed, seem to be opposed to that regularity and good discipline, which are promised by the Declaration. Yesterday there was some skirmishing between one of our advanced parties and one of the Enemy’s, in which they were obliged to retreat, with the loss of an officer & three men killed, according to report. We had one private wounded. I have received no particular accounts respecting the Maryland Eastern Shore militia; from the best information I have, a great many are well disposed to turn out, but are prevented giving their aid thro the want of arms. Apprehending that the militia there would stand in need of an officer to arrange them, I wrote to Genl Cadwalader, requesting his good offices, which I am told have been exerted. Colol Gist is now gone down, and I expect will move on as soon as possible, with such as are armed, towards the Enemy. Genl Smallwood is gone to take the command of those on the Western Shore, of which I hear many are collecting; but I have no authentic advices on the subject. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. Will it not be advisable to order Colo. Richardson’s Regiment from their present station, to march and join the Eastern shore militia?
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Headquarters,Wilmington, 1 September, 1777.
I have been duly honored with your several favors of the 15th, 28, and 29 ulto, and observe their contents.1 From the papers you have sent there can remain no doubt, that Mr. Troup’s2 true errand, what ever may be his ostensible one, was to recruit men for the British army; and after being so clearly detected should he escape punishment it cannot fail to have the disagreeable influence you mention on the minds of the people, and to be an encouragement to other adventurers. As a similar instance however has not before come under my direction I have ordered a special Court-Martial, on the occasion composed of men of judgment and moderation to sit upon the occasion, and I have every reason to expect their decision will be dispassionate and well founded. It is doubted whether the military jurisdiction comprehends a case of this kind. This will be well considered, and if the court can with propriety go into the trial and their sentence should be such as it is naturally to be expected it will be, I do not think from my present view of the matter that it will be in my power to mitigate or remit his punishment, though I shall sensibly feel for his friends, who cannot but be deeply affected by his fate.
Your reason for not entering upon the business of dividing the State districts, till the ensuing meeting of the assembly is entirely satisfactory.—I have no doubt you are sufficiently impressed with the importance of carrying the measure into speedy execution and will use all your influence to have it done.
I am sorry you have no better prospect as to the number of militia, you expect collect; but considering all the circumstances you mention, it is not [to] be wondered at that a people harrassed and exhausted by having their country so long the seat of the war should be unwilling to quit their homes; especially when they have an enemy still at their doors.
I am fully convinced of the pernicious consequences of that abuse of passports you speak of. The liberty that has been taken in granting them, was altogether unauthorized by me, and contrary to my wish.—I am glad to find you are determined to put a stop to the practice with respect to your militia officers, who alone will now have it in their power to continue it, as the Continental troops are all called away; and Doctor Barnet who has been so peculiarly culpable, and who had not a shadow of right to grant a single passport, will also be immediately removed.1
You will ere this have heard of the enemys advancing from the place of their first landing, and occupying with their van a piece of high-ground called Greigs-Hill, they still remain in this position, and it is difficult to say how soon they will alter it. All accounts agree that they are very much distressed for want of horses, numbers of which it is said died on the passage, and the best are in exceeding bad order; this will probably occasion some delay and give time for the Militia, who seem to be collecting pretty fast to join us. We have light parties constantly hovering about them, who frequently make a few prisoners,1 and will be no inconsiderable check upon them.
They have as yet experienced little countenance from the inhabitants, and as we have accounts of their perpetrating outrages similar to those they have committed elsewhere, I am in hopes, their conduct here, as in other places, will not be of a complexion to concilitate many new partisans to their cause.
P. S. Since writing the above, the judge advocate of the Court Martial above mentioned has called upon me, and reported that the Court had proceeded upon the tryal of the Prisoner, but on account of one point of his defence which requires time to be investigated had postponed their final decision, and adjourned to a future day the 16th Inst. Mr. Troup, pretends that he came out with design to avail himself of the offer of grace held out in your proclamation, but finding the people much exasperated against him and hearing that a man had been hanged who had applied for the benefit of that proclamation he was deterred from applying to you in person till he had made his peace, through the mediation of a third person & secured his terms: That for this purpose he had communicated his intention to one Philip Schout & his mother, residing near Charlottenburgh, who were to intercede with a certain Mr. Donoworth that lives with Mr. Erskind at Ringwood, in order to engage him to solicit you in his, Mr. Troup’s, behalf. He lays great stress upon this; though it is probably a mere pretence; but as the court have indulged him with time to have his witnesses produced, I shall be much obliged to you to notify the persons above mentioned that their immediate attendance at Head Qrs. is required, and to have them sent on without delay.—You will also be pleased to inform yourself of their characters, particularly in a political light.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Wilmington, eight o’clock, P. M., 3 September, 1777.
I have this minute returned to Head-qrs, where I found your favor of this date, with the resolves respecting Genl Sullivan, and Colol Richardson’s Battalion. I had conversed with Genl Sullivan upon the Subject, and observed to him that it was necessary an Inquiry should be had relative to the affair at Staten Island, as his conduct was censured, and much dissatisfaction prevailed. He was sensible of the propriety of the measure, and expressed a desire that It should take place, provided he could have the benefit of Genl Smallwood’s testimony, who was on the expedition. That gentleman happens at this time to be in Maryland, which must necessarily delay the Inquiry, unless some mode can be agreed upon for obtaining his sentiments upon the matter.1
This morning the Enemy came out, with a considerable force and three pieces of artillery, against our Light advanced corps, and, after some pretty smart skirmishing, obliged them to retreat, being far inferior in number, and without Cannon. The loss on either side is not yet ascertained; ours, tho’ not exactly known, is not very considerable; theirs, we have reason to believe, was much greater, as some of our parties, composed of expert marksmen, had opportunities of giving them several close, well-directed fires, more particularly in one instance, when a body of riflemen formed a kind of ambuscade. They advanced about Two miles this side of Iron Hill, and then withdrew to that place, leaving a picket at Couch’s Mill, about a mile in front. Our parties now lie at White-Clay Creek, except the advanced pickets, which are at Christiana Bridge. On Monday a large detachment of the enemy landed at Cecil Court-House; and this morning I had advice of their having advanced on the Newcastle Road as far as Carson’s tavern. Parties of horse were sent out to reconnoiter them, which went three miles beyond the Red Lion, but could neither see nor hear of them; whence I conjecture they filed off by a road to their left, and fell in with their main body. The design of their movement this morning seems to have been to disperse our Light Troops, who had been troublesome to ’em, and to gain possession of Iron Hill, to establish a post most probably for covering their retreat in case of accidents. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
Wilmington, 7 September, 1777.
* * * Since General Howe’s debarkation in Elk River he has moved on about seven miles; his main body now lays at Iron Hill, and ours near a village called Newport.1 In this position the armies are from eight to ten miles apart. It is yet very uncertain what Genl Howe’s plan of operations will be. Some imagine that he will extend himself from the Head Waters of Chesapeake to Delaware, and by these means not only cut off the Counties on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and two of those belonging to the Delaware State, from affording us any assistance, but will secure the Horses, Cattle, and Forage, of which there are considerable quantities in that country. This, in my opinion, considering how far the Campaign is already advanced, would take up more time than he could spare. For, supposing him able to form such an extension, he would be full as far from Philada as he is at present, and he would be subject to an attack upon some part of his line, which, from its length, could not be properly supported. A few days past he advanced two or three miles forward, during which there was pretty sharp skirmishing between our light Troops and his Van. We had about forty killed and wounded, and I imagine the Enemy had considerably more, as ours were thinly posted behind cover, and they were in column. I am, &c.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
6 Miles fromWilmington, 9 September, 1777.
The enemy advanced yesterday with a seeming intention of attacking us upon our post near Newport. We waited for ’em the whole day; but in the Evening they halted at a place called Milltown, about two miles from us. Upon reconnoitring their situation, it appeared probable that they only meant to amuse us in front, while their real intent was to march by our right, and by suddenly passing the Brandywine and gaining the Heights upon the north side of that River, get between us and Philadelphia, and cut us off from It. To prevent this, it was judged expedient to change our position immediately. The army accordingly marched at two o’clock this morning, and will take post this evening on the high grounds near Chad’s Ford.1 We have heard nothing circumstantial of the Enemy to-day. When I do, I shall immediately transmit to you an account. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.1
Chester twelve o’clock at Night,
I am sorry to inform you, that, in this day’s engagement, we have been obliged to leave the enemy masters of the field. Unfortunately the intelligence recd., of the enemy’s advancing up the Brandywine & crossing at a ford about six miles above us, was uncertain & contradictory, notwithstanding all my pains to get the best. This prevented my making a disposition adequate to the force with which the enemy attacked us on our right; in consequence of which, the troops first engaged were obliged to retire before they could be reinforced. In the midst of the attack on our right, that body of the enemy, which remained on the other side of Chad’s Ford, crossed it, & attacked the division there under the command of General Wayne, & the light troops under Genl Maxwell, who, after a severe conflict, also retired. The militia under the command of Major-General Armstrong, being posted at a ford about two miles below Chad’s, had no opportunity of engaging.
But altho we fought under many disadvantages, and were, from the causes above mentioned, obliged to retire, yet our loss of men is not, I am persuaded, very considerable; I believe much less than the enemy’s. We have also lost seven or eight pieces of cannon, according to the best information I can at present obtain. The baggage, having been previously moved off, is all secure, saving the men’s blankets, which being at their backs, many of them doubtless were lost. I have directed all the troops to assemble behind Chester, where they are now arranging for this night. Notwithstanding the misfortune of the day, I am happy to find the troops in good spirits; and I hope another time we shall compensate for the losses now sustained. The Marquis de Lafayette was wounded in the leg, & General Woodford in the hand; divers other officers were wounded, & some slain; but the numbers of either cannot now be ascertained. I have the honor to be, &c.1
P. S. It has not been in my power to send you earlier intelligence, the present being the first leisure moment I have had since the action.2
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have been honored with your favor of this date. I heartily wish the works on the Delaware were completed; but I think, and in this opinion my officers concur, that the service will be injured if any part of the Continental troops were now to be employed about ’em. If we should be able to oppose General Howe with success in the Field, the works will be unnecessary; If not, and he should force us from hence, he will certainly possess himself of ’em. But, to prevent his attempting it now, I have directed the meadows on Province Island to be overflowed immediately, and any other grounds that may be thought necessary for that purpose. The works have been more peculiarly made under the direction of Monsieur Ducoudray, and I doubt not he will pay every attention to their completion and security, that the situation of affairs will admit of. A part of the militia under General Armstrong will be posted along Schuylkill, to throw up Redoubts at the different Fords, which will be occasionally occupied while I move to the other side with the main body of the army.1 This disposition appears to be most eligable, from a consideration of all circumstances, and better than if any part of our present force was to be employed at the Forts. If further reinforcements of the militia should come in, perhaps they may be more properly assigned to that business, than any we now have.
Your letter respecting General Deborre just now came to hand. I shall transmit to him a Copy of it and of the resolution. There can be no Court of inquiry into his conduct at this time. As soon as the State of the Army will admit, it will be held.1
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Buck Tavern, 15 September, 1777, 3 o’clock P.M.
Your favor of yesterday with its several Inclosures came to hand last night. Tho. I would willingly pay every attention to the Resolutions of Congress, yet in the late instance, respecting the recall of Genl. Sullivan I must beg leave to defer giving any order about it, till I hear further from that Honble. Body. Our situation at this time is critical and delicate, and nothing should be done to add to its embarrassments. We are now most probably on the point of another action, and to derange the Army by withdrawing so many Genl. Officers from it, may and must be attended with many disagreeable, if not ruinous consequences. Such a proceeding at another time might not produce any bad effects—but how can the Army be possibly conducted with a prospect of success if the Genl. Officers are taken off in the moment of Battle? Congress may rely upon it such a measure will not promote, but injure the service. It is not my wish to prevent, or to delay a proper inquiry into Genl. Sullivan’s conduct a single instant, when the circumstances of the Army will admit.—But now they prohibit it, and I think the suspension in his command also. The recall of Genl. St. Clair obliged me to part with Genl. Lincoln, whom I could but illy spare, so that the whole charge of his Division is now upon Genl. Wayne, there being no other Brigadrs. in it than himself. The Maryland Troops, if Genl Sullivan is taken away, will not have one Genl. Officer, Genl Smallwood being at the Head of the Militia coming from that State, and Genl. De Borre suspended. Added to this, Colo Gist who commands one Regiment of them, is now from it, by order. In a word Sir, whether the charges alledged against Genl. Sullivan are true or false, or whether his conduct has been exceptionable or not, I am satisfied the resolution for his recall at this time was unhappily adopted, and if carried into execution, will not fail to add new difficulties to our present distresses. And, I am obliged to observe, in justice to my own Character, that I can not be answerable for the consequences which may arise from a want of Officers to assist me.1
It gives me great pleasure to find Genl. Gates is on so respectable a footing, and I hope, our Affairs in that Quarter in the course of a little time, will be in as prosperous a train as we could reasonably wish.
The Main body of the Enemy, from the best intelligence, I have been able to get, lies near Dilworth Town, not far from the Field of Action, where they have been busily employed in burying their Dead, which from accounts amounted to a very considerable number.1 We are moving up this Road to get between the Enemy and the Swedes’ Ford, and to prevent them from turning our right flank, which they seem to have a violent inclination to effect by all their movements.
I would beg leave to recommend in the most earnest manner, that some Board or Committee be appointed or some mode adopted for obtaining supplies of Blankets for the Troops. Many are now without and the season becoming cold, they will be injured in their health and unfitted for service, unless they are immediately provided with them. Our supplies in this instance, as well as in Every Article of Cloathing cannot be too great, as there are frequent losses, not easily to be avoided.
I would also observe that, I think in point of prudence and sound policy, every species of provisions, should be removed from the City, except such as will be necessary to supply the present demands of this Army. I have been told, there are considerable quantities in private hands, which should not be suffered to remain a moment longer than they can be conveyed away. I have &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, 19 September, 1777.
I was honored this morning with your favors of the 17th & 18th with their Inclosures.
I am much obliged to Congress for the late instance of their confidence, expressed in their Resolution of the 17th, and shall be happy if my conduct in discharging the objects they had in view should be such as to meet their approbation.1 I am now repassing the Schuylkill at Parker’s Ford, with the main body of the army, which will be over in an Hour or two, tho’ it is deep and rapid.1 Genl Wayne, with the division under his command, is on the rear of the Enemy, and will be joined to-morrow or next day, I expect, by Genl Smallwood and Colo Gist with their corps.2 As soon as the troops have crossed the river, I shall march them as expeditiously as possible towards Fatland, Swedes’, & the other fords, where it is most probable the Enemy will attempt to pass.
When I left Germantown with the army, I hoped I should have an opportunity of attacking them, either in Front or on their flank, with a prospect of success; but unhappily a variety of causes concurred to prevent it. Our march, in the first place, was greatly impeded thro’ want of provisions, which delayed us so long that the enemy were apprized of our motions, and gained the grounds near the White Horse Tavern, with a part of their army turning our right flank, whilst another part, composing the main body, were more advanced towards our left. We should have disappointed them in their design by getting on their left; But the Heavy rain, which fell on Tuesday evening & in the course of that night, totally unfitted our Guns for service and nearly the whole of the ammunition with which the army had been compleated a day or two before, being forty rounds p. man. At first I expected that the loss was by no means so considerable, and intended only to file off with the troops a few miles to replace it & clean the arms, & then to proceed on my original plan; but on examination I found it as I have mentioned, and that we had not a sufficient supply with us to furnish the men with the necessary complement. In this situation it was judged necessary, that we should proceed as far as Reading Furnace for the security of the army.1 On these accounts, particularly the latter, matters have not been conducted as I intended & wished, & the enemy have had an opportunity of making their advances without being attacked. I yet hope, from the present state of the river, that I shall be down in time to give them a meeting, and if unfortunately they should gain Philadelphia, that it will not be without loss. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO LIEUTENANT-COLONEL ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Camp, 22 September, 1777.
The distressed situation of the army for want of blankets, and many necessary articles of cloathing, is truly deplorable; and must inevitably be destructive to it, unless a speedy remedy be applied. Without a better supply than they at present have, it will be impossible for the men to support the fatigues of the campaign in the further progress of the approaching inclement season. This you well know to be a melancholy truth. It is equally the dictate of common sense and the opinion of the Physicians of the army, as well as of every officer in it. No supply can be drawn from the public magazines. We have therefore no resource but from the private stock of individuals. I feel, and I lament, the absolute necessity of requiring the inhabitants to contribute to those wants, which we have no other means of satisfying, and which if unremoved would involve the ruin of the army, and perhaps the ruin of America. Painful as it is to me to order and as it will be to you to execute the measure, I am compelled to desire you immediately to proceed to Philadelphia, and there procure from the inhabitants contributions of blankets and cloathing, and materials to answer the purposes of both, in proportion to the ability of each. This you will do with as much delicacy and discretion, as the nature of the business demands; and I trust the necessity will justify the proceeding in the eyes of every person well affected to the American cause, and that all good citizens will chearfully afford their assistance to soldiers, whose sufferings they are bound to commiserate, and who are eminently exposed to danger and distress, in defence of every thing they ought to hold dear.
As there are also a number of horses in Philadelphia both of public and private property, which would be a valuable acquisition to the enemy, should the city by any accident fall into their hands, you are hereby authorized and commanded to remove them thence into the Country to some place of greater security, and more remote from the operations of the enemy. You will stand in need of assistance from others to execute this commission with despatch and propriety, and you are therefore empowered to employ such persons as you shall think proper to aid you therein. I am, Sir, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, nearPottsgrove, 23 September, 1777.
I have not had the honor of addressing you since your adjournment to Lancaster, and I sincerely wish that my first Letter was upon a more agreeable subject.1 The Enemy, by a variety of perplexing manœuvres thro’ a Country from which I could not derive the least intelligence (being to a man disaffected), contrived to pass the Schuylkill last night at the Fatland and other fords in the neighborhood of it. They marched immediately towards Philadelphia, and I imagine their advanced parties will be near that City to-night. They had so far got the start before I recd. certain intelligence that any considerable number had crossed, that I found it in vain to think of overtaking their Rear, with Troops harassed as ours had been with constant marching since the Battle of Brandywine; and therefore concluded, by the advice of all the gen’l officers, to march from this place tomorrow morning towards Philadelphia, and on the Way endeavor to form a junction with the Continental Troops under General McDougall, from Peekskill, and the Jersey militia under Genl Dickinson, both of whom are, I hope, on this side of the Delaware.2 I am also obliged to wait for Genl Wayne and Genl Smallwood, who were left upon the other side of Schuylkill, in hopes of falling upon the Enemy’s Rear; but they have eluded them as well as us.
When I last recrossed the Schuylkill, it was with a firm intent of giving the Enemy Battle wherever I should meet them; and accordingly advanced as far as the Warren Tavern upon the Lancaster Road, near which place the two armies were upon the point of coming to a General Engagement, but were prevented by a most violent flood of Rain, which continued all the day and following night.1 When it held up, we had the mortification to find that our ammunition, which had been compleated to forty rounds a man, was entirely ruined; and in that Situation we had nothing left for it but to find out a strong piece of Ground, which we could easily maintain till we could get the Arms put in order, and a Recruit of Ammunition. Before this could be fully effected, the Enemy marched from their position near the White Horse Tavern, down the Road leading to the Swedes’ Ford. I immediately crossed the Schuylkill above them, and threw myself full in their front, hoping to meet them in their passage, or soon after they had passed the river. The day before yesterday they were again in motion, and marched rapidly up the road leading towards Reading. This induced me to believe that they had two objects in View, one to get round the right of the Army, the other perhaps to detach parties to Reading, where we had considerable quantities of military Stores. To frustrate those intentions, I moved the army up on this side of the River to this place, determined to keep pace with them; but early this morning I recd. intelligence, that they had crossed the fords below.1 Why I did not follow immediately, I have mentioned in the former part of my letter; but the strongest reason against being able to make a forced march is the want of shoes. Messieurs Carroll, Chase, and Penn, who were some days with the army, can inform Congress in how deplorable a situation the Troops are, for want of that necessary article. At least one thousand men are bare-footed, and have performed the marches in that condition. I was told of a great number of shoes in the hands of private people in Philadelphia, and sent down to secure them; but I doubt the Approach of the Enemy will prevent it.
I have planned a method of throwing a Garrison into Fort Mifflin. If it succeeds, and they, with the assistance of the Ships and Galleys, should keep the obstructions in the River, Genl Howe’s situation in Philadelphia will not be the most agreeable; for if his supplies can be stopped by Water, it may be easily done by land. To do both shall be my utmost endeavor; and I am not yet without hope, that the acquisition of Philadelphia may, instead of his good fortune, prove his Ruin. General St. Clair, who has been constantly with the Army for some time past, can give you many pieces of information, which may have escaped me, and therefore I refer you to him for many particulars. * * *1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
Camp, on Schuylkill, 34 Miles fromPhiladelphia,
The situation of our affairs in this Quarter calls for every aid and for every effort. Genl Howe, by various manœuvres and marching high up the Schuylkill, as if he meant to turn our Right Flank, found means by countermarching to pass the River, several miles below us, last night, which is fordable almost in every part, and is now fast advancing towards Philadelphia. I therefore desire, that, without a moment’s loss of time, you will detach as many effective rank and file, under proper generals and other officers, as will make the whole number, including those with Genl McDougall, amount to twenty-five hundred privates & non-commissioned fit for duty. The corps under Genl McDougall, to my great surprise, by a Letter from him some days ago, consisted only of nine hundred & Eleven. You will direct the Officers, commanding the Detachment now ordered, to proceed as expeditiously as they can to reinforce me. The Rout through Morris Town and over Coryell’s Ferry will be best for them to pursue. Before they arrive at the ferry, they will hear where I am; but that they may know their destination, when they are in Two days’ march of It, they are to advise me by Express, and I will write on the Subject.
I must urge you, by every motive, to send on this Detachment without the least possible delay. No considerations are to prevent it. It is our first object to defeat, if possible, the Army now opposed to us here. That the passes in the Highlands may be perfectly secure, you will immediately call in all your forces now on command at outposts. You must not think of covering a whole country by dividing ’em; & when they are ordered in & drawn together, they will be fully competent to repel any attempt, that can be made by the Enemy from below in their present situation. Besides, if you are threatened with an Attack, you must get what aid you can from the militia. The Detachment will bring their Baggage, but I wish ’em to come with no more than will be absolutely necessary. That you may not hesitate about complying with this order, you are to consider it as peremptory & not to be dispensed with. Colonel Malcom’s regiment will form a part of the detachment. I am, dear Sir, &c.1
P. S. The Troops now ordered need not bring any artillery.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Camp, nearPottsgrove, 24 September, 1777.
This army has not been able to oppose Genl: Howe’s with the success that was wished, and needs a Reinforcement. I therefore request, if you have been so fortunate as to oblige Genl Burgoyne to retreat to Ticonderoga, or If you have not and circumstances will admit, that you will order Colonel Morgan to join me again with his Corps. I sent him up when I thought you materially wanted him; and if his services can be dispensed with now, you will direct his immediate return. You will perceive, I do not mention this by way of command, but leave you to determine upon It according to your situation. If they come, they should proceed by water from Albany, as low down as Peekskill. In such case you will give Colonel Morgan the necessary orders to join me with despatch. I am, &c.1
TO LORD STIRLING.
Head Quarters, 25 September, 1777.
I have your favor of 8 oclock now before me, and am surprised to find the Enemy in the same situation after the movement which they appear’d to be making according to the Information given by Genl. Reed.—
I am sorry the Picquets march’d from hence yesterday, and I am still more concern’d that Genl. Armstrong with the militia moved to the Trap, as it was owing to a mistake they were not halted along with the other Troops at this place, the countermand of the march being intended for the whole, tho’ I presume it never reached Genl. Armstrong.—
Under these circumstances, and the present appearance of the weather (which has induced me to pitch our Tents, and see what the clouds have in charge) I mean to halt here at least to day, especially as I find Genl. Wayne will not be up till night (if then), and Smallwood not till to morrow. I should be glad, therefore, if your Lordship would consult Genl. Armstrong and the other General Officers with you, and determine whether it will be best for you to march back to the Picquets, and for Maxwell’s Corps to join their respective Brigades immediately or wait till tomorrow.
That you may be the better enabled to determine this point, I am to inform you, that I have directed Genl. McDougall to Halt at a place mark’d on the map Markeys, on the Skippack Road, between Welgers and Pennebakers Mill (at a star in the Fork of Perkiomy), and officers are gone out to view the grounds thereabouts, to see if it would be a convenient situation to assemble our troops at, and form a Camp; at the same time I must add that the Current Sentiment of the Genl. Officers here, is that it is too near the Enemy till we are in a better condition to meet them on any ground than we seem to be at present.—I shall only add that the reason for halting McDougall there, is to save him the fatigue of a Counter March if we should move that way, as his Troops must be greatly fatigued by the length, and (of late) the rapidity of his march to form the junction with us. How far his situation there may be eligible, a few hours, with the intelligence they may bring, will probably determine. Your Lordship will, as before desired, take the sentiments of the Officers with you on these matters & let me know the result. I am, &c.1
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
Perkiomy Creek inPhiladephia,
Your letter of the eleventh instant came to my hands yesterday.
It was always my intention, if agreeable to your mother, to give you the offer of renting her dower-estate in King William during my interest therein, so soon as you came of age to act for yourself. On two accounts I resolved to do this,—first, because I was desirous of contracting my own business into as narrow a compass as possible; and, secondly, because I thought an estate, so capable of improvement as that is (in the hands of a person who had a permanent interest in it, and the means withal) ought not to be neglected till such time as an unfortunate event, and perhaps a distant one, might put you in possession.
The little attention I have been able to pay to any part of my own private business for three years last past is the cause why this among other matters has escaped me, but since you have mentioned it yourself, I have only to add, that it will be quite agreeable to me that you should have the land, and everything thereon, except breeding mares, if any there be, and fillies.
To regulate the rent by the rule you have mentioned, I could not consent to, because, if the plantation had been under good management, it would have fixed it higher than you ought to give; if, under bad management, which I believe to be the case, it would fix it too low, and might settle it at nothing. The only true criterion is to determine what so much land, with so much marsh, in such a part of the country, would rent for; and next the annual value of so many slaves, estimating them at their present worth, at the same time having respect to the advantages and disadvantages of the old and the young, as the one is declining and the other improving.
As you are desirous of having the matter fixed as speedily as possible—as the distance between us is too great—the season far advanced—and letters too apt to miscarry to negotiate a business of this kind, in that way, and as I wish for no more than impartial gentlemen, unconnected with both of us, shall say I ought to have; I am content to leave the valuation of the whole to General Nelson, Colonel Braxton, and George Webb, Esq. I mention these gentlemen because they are persons of character and because no time may be lost in the appointment.
Whatever rent they shall fix upon the land, and whatever hire for the negroes, I contentedly will take. The stock of every kind (except mares and fillies), and plantation utensils and working tools may also be valued; at which you may take them. By this means the whole business may be finished at once. That these gentlemen (if you approve the method of ascertaining the rent) may know it is with my approbation, the request is made to them you will show them this letter, and at the same time apologize in my name for the trouble it will give them if they are obliging enough to undertake it.
My extreme hurry, especially at this juncture, only allows me time to add my love to Nelly, and to assure you that I am, with sincere regard and affection, dear sir, yours.
P. S. In the present fluctuating, state of things, there is one thing which justice to myself and your mother requires me to condition for, and that is that the rent stipulated shall have some relative value, to secure an equivalent for the land and slaves; otherwise, as the lease will be an absolute conveyance of the estate from your mother and me, we may at the end of a few years, if paper money continues to depreciate, get nothing for it. I do not mean by this to insinuate that I am unwilling to receive paper money—on the contrary, I shall, with cheerfulness receive payment in anything that has a currency at the time of payment, but of equal value then to the intrinsic worth at the time of fixing the rent. In a word, that I may really, and not nominally, get what was intended as a rent.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, Twenty Miles fromPhiladelphia,
Yesterday afternoon I had the honor to receive your favors of the 30th ultimo, with their enclosures. I was much obliged by the accounts from the northern army, though in general they had reached me before; and I flatter myself we shall soon hear that they have been succeeded by other fortunate and interesting events, as the two armies, by General Gates’s letter, were encamped near each other.1 I shall pay due attention to the resolution you refer me to; and no exertions on my part shall be wanting to collect what necessaries I can for the army. This, I am persuaded, will be equally attended to by the honorable Board of War; and I hope, by care and industry, many supplies may be obtained to relieve our distresses, which, in the articles of shoes, stockings, and blankets, are extremely great.2
Since my letter of the 29th, no favorable change has taken place in our affairs; on the contrary, we have sustained an additional loss in the capture of the Delaware. She fell into the enemy’s hands in a day or two after they were in possession of the city, and in a manner not yet well understood. Some have supposed the crew mutinied, while another report is, that she was disabled in her rudder by a shot, and driven on shore. This misfortune takes off the success of Captain Biddle’s cruise. I will not dwell longer on the subject.1 Congress may rest assured, all the means in my power shall be employed to put our affairs in a more agreeable train, and to accomplish the end they so earnestly wish. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. Enclosed is a copy of Genl. Howe’s Proclamation issued the 28th ult.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, near Pennibecker’s Mill,
Having received intelligence through two intercepted letters, that General Howe had detached a part of his force for the purpose of reducing Billingsport and the forts on Delaware, I communicated the accounts to my general officers, who were unanimously of opinion that a favorable opportunity offered to make an attack upon the troops, which were at and near Germantown. It was accordingly agreed that it should take place yesterday morning, and the following dispositions were made.
The divisions of Sullivan and Wayne, flanked by Conway’s brigade, were to enter the town by the way of Chestnut Hill, while General Armstrong with the Pennsylvania militia should fall down the Manatawny road1 by Vandeering’s Mill, and get upon the enemy’s left and rear. The divisions of Greene and Stephen, flanked by McDougall’s brigade, were to enter, by taking a circuit by way of the Lime-kiln road, at the Market-house, and to attack their right wing; and the militia of Maryland and Jersey, under Generals Smallwood and Forman, were to march by the old York road, and fall upon the rear of their right. Lord Stirling, with Nash’s and Maxwell’s brigades, was to form a corps de reserve.
We marched about seven o’clock the preceding evening, and General Sullivan’s advanced party, drawn from Conway’s brigade, attacked their picket at Mount Airy, or Mr. Allen’s house, about sunrise the next morning, which presently gave way; and his main body, consisting of the right wing, following soon, engaged the light infantry and other troops encamped near the picket, which they forced from their ground. Leaving their baggage, they retreated a considerable distance, having previously thrown a party into Mr. Chew’s house, who were in a situation not to be easily forced, and had it in their power, from the windows, to give us no small annoyance, and in a great measure to obstruct our advance.
The attack from our left column, under General Greene, began about three quarters of an hour after that from the right, and was for some time equally successful. But I cannot enter upon the particulars of what happened in that quarter, as I am not yet informed of them with sufficient certainty and precision.1 The morning was extremely foggy, which prevented our improving the advantages we gained, so well as we should otherwise have done. This circumstance, by concealing from us the true situation of the enemy, obliged us to act with more caution and less expedition than we could have wished; and gave the enemy time to recover from the effects of our first impression; and, what was still more unfortunate, it served to keep our different parties in ignorance of each other’s movements and hinder their acting in concert. It also occasioned them to mistake one another for the enemy, which I believe more than any thing else contributed to the misfortune that ensued. In the midst of the most promising appearances, when every thing gave the most flattering hopes of victory, the troops began suddenly to retreat, and entirely left the field, in spite of every effort that could be made to rally them.
Upon the whole, it may be said the day was rather unfortunate than injurious. We sustained no material loss of men, and brought off all our artillery, except one piece which was dismounted. The enemy are nothing the better by the event; and our troops, who are not in the least dispirited by it, have gained what all young troops gain by being in actions. We have had however several valuable officers killed and wounded, particularly the latter. General Nash is among the wounded, and his life is despaired of. As soon as it is possible to obtain a return of our loss I will transmit it. In justice to General Sullivan and the whole right wing of the army, whose conduct I had an opportunity of observing, as they acted immediately under my eye, I have the pleasure to inform you, that both officers and men behaved with a degree of gallantry that did them the highest honor. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. As I have observed, I have not received a return of our loss; but, from what I have just now learned from General Greene, I fear it is more considerable than I at first apprehended, in men. The cannon, mentioned above, is said to have been brought off in a wagon.
TO SIR WILLIAM HOWE.1
Head-Quarters, 6 October, 1777.
I cannot forbear assuring you, that I am somewhat at a loss to understand the design of your letter of the 3d instant. I can hardly believe you to be serious in remonstrating against a procedure fully authorized by the common practice of armies, countenanced by your own troops at Trenton, and obviously calculated to answer a purpose very different from that of distressing the inhabitants and increasing the common calamities incident to a state of war. If this is a consequence of it, it is an unavoidable one, and had no part in producing the measure. I flatter myself the public is sufficiently sensible, that it is not my wish nor aim to distress, but to protect the inhabitants, and know how to interpret any thing, that, with respect to individuals, may seem to deviate from this end. Nor will they be easily persuaded to consider it as any injustice or cruelty to them, that my parties should have rendered useless, for a time, a few mills in the neighborhood of your army, which were so situated as to be capable of affording them no inconsiderable advantages.
I am happy to find you express so much sensibility to the sufferings of the inhabitants, as it gives room to hope, that those wanton and unnecessary depredations, which have heretofore, in too many instances, marked the conduct of your army, will be discontinued for the future. The instances I allude to need not be enumerated; your own memory will suggest them to your imagination, from the destruction of Charlestown, in the Massachusetts, down to the more recent burning of mills, barns, and houses at the Head of Elk, and in the vicinity of the Schuylkill. I am, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp, near Pennibecker’s Mill, 7 October, 1777.
Since I had the honor of addressing you on the 5th, I have obtained a return of our loss in the action on Saturday, by which it appears to be much more considerable than I first apprehended, though I always imagined myself that it was greater than it was generally supposed to be. The copy of the return enclosed will show the amount as it now stands; but I hope many of those who are missing will yet come in. I fear however there are several under that denomination to be added to the number of the slain, as the action was warm in every quarter, from the information of the officers who commanded the different attacks. What loss the enemy sustained, I am not able precisely to ascertain; but from a variety of corresponding accounts of persons, who left the city since, and those of a deserter, it was very considerable. The deserter, who is intelligent, says General Agnew was killed, Sir William Erskine wounded in the head and leg, and that their general loss, in killed and wounded, amounted to near eight hundred. Several reputable persons from the city corroborate this, particularly with respect to General Agnew’s death; some say upwards of two hundred wagons with wounded were carried in after the action, and before they came out; and that it was the common belief there, the enemy had been severely handled.
It is with much chagrin and mortification I add, that every account confirms the opinion I first entertained, that our troops retreated at the instant when victory was declaring herself in our favor. The tumult, disorder, and even despair, which, it seems, had taken place in the British army, were scarcely to be paralleled; and it is said, so strongly did the ideas of a retreat prevail, that Chester was fixed on as their rendezvous. I can discover no other cause for not improving this happy opportunity, than the extreme haziness of the weather.1
My intention is to encamp the army at some suitable place to rest and refresh the men, and recover them from the still remaining effects of that disorder naturally attendant on a retreat. We shall here wait for the reinforcements coming on, and shall then act according to circumstances. General Varnum, with the detachment from Peekskill amounting to about twelve hundred, including officers, would be last night at Coryell’s Ferry. About five hundred militia from Virginia, and two hundred from Maryland, together with Colonel Gibson’s State regiment consisting of two hundred and twenty-six effectives, have already joined the army. Since the action, General Forman’s brigade of Jersey militia has quitted us. The men began to be uneasy at their situation, and desirous to return home; and as, by some intelligence received from General Dickinson, there was reason to imagine there might be a call for their services in the Jerseys, it was thought expedient to gratify their desire.
The state of our water defence on the Delaware is far from being as flattering as could be wished. After some slight opposition from the Jersey militia under General Newcomb, a detachment of the enemy took possession of Billingsport. This perhaps is an event of no material consequence; but it is to be lamented, that many of the officers and seamen on board the galleys have manifested a disposition that does them little honor. Looking upon their situation as desperate, or probably from worse motives, they have been guilty of the most alarming desertions. Two whole crews, including the officers, have deserted to the enemy. I learn however by Captain Brewer, who is this moment arrived here from the fleet, that the accounts they have received from the city, of our late attack, were such as to have produced a favorable change, and to have inspired them with more confidence. I would here observe, that the charge of bad conduct was by no means applicable to the whole; far from it. He further adds, that four of the enemy’s ships made an attempt yesterday morning to weigh the chevaux-de-frise opposite to Billingsport, but were repulsed by our galleys; which has also contributed to raise the spirits of the seamen. Our garrison on Fort Island, consisting of little more than two hundred Continental Troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith,1 appear determined to maintain their post to the last extremity.
I beg leave to mention to Congress, that there is a great deficiency of general officers in this army. When the detachment coming from Peekskill joins us, we shall have thirteen brigades. These require as many brigadiers, and six major-generals. Instead of these, we shall have only four major-generals and eleven brigadiers; and the deficiency will be still increased by the death of General Nash, which, from every appearance, is momently to be expected. Geneneral Woodford’s absence, occasioned by his wound, adds to our embarrassments, though it will be but for a time. Under these circumstances, Congress will be sensible that the government of the army cannot go on with that energy, which is essential to its well-being and success. Neither officers nor men will transfer the respect and obedience they pay to a general officer, to a colonel who happens to be appointed to the temporary command of a brigade; nor will he, knowing his authority to be only temporary, be as solicitous to enforce it, as one who is conscious he is to continue in the station he fills. Want of leisure prevents my being more particular at this time; but I shall take the liberty, in a day or two, to point out the troops that are in want of general officers, with my observations on the subject.
I cannot however omit this opportunity of recommending General McDougall to their notice. This gentleman, from the time of his appointment as brigadier, from his abilities, military knowledge, and approved bravery, has every claim to promotion. If I mistake not, he was passed over in the last appointments of major-generals, and younger officers preferred before him; but his disinterested attachment to the service prevented his acting in the manner, that is customary in like circumstances. This, I think, gives him a peculiar title to esteem, and concurs with the opinion I have of his value as an officer, to make me wish it may appear advisable to Congress to promote him to one of the vacancies. It would be well the intended inquiry into the conduct of General St. Clair could be brought to a speedy issue; and, if he is acquitted to the satisfaction of Congress, that, as his general character as an officer is good, he may be again restored to the service.
By a letter this evening received from Colonel Hawkes Hay of Haverstraw, dated the 5th, at four o’clock in the afternoon, four ships of war, a considerable number of armed vessels, eight transports, and forty flat-bottomed boats, arrived that morning in the bay opposite that place, and were landing troops at Verplanck’s Point. Their number and design were not known. I have the honor to be, &c.
P. S. Enclosed you will find a copy of a letter from Colo. Mifflin containing an account of the action of the 4th as mentioned by the British officers in Philadelphia. I would beg leave to observe that I think Miss Leonard’s name should not be mentioned.1
TO COLONEL CHRISTOPHER GREENE.
I have directed General Varnum to send your regiment and that of Colonel Angell to Red Bank, by a rout which has been marked out to him. The command of that detachment will of course devolve upon you, with which you will proceed with all expedition, and throw yourself into that place. When you arrive there, you will immediately communicate your arrival to Col: Smith, commander of the Garrison at Fort Mifflin, and Commodore Hazelwood, commander of the fleet in the river.1 You are to coöperate with them in every measure necessary for the defence of the obstructions in the river, and to counteract every attempt the enemy may make for their removal. You will find a very good fortification at Red Bank; but if any thing should be requisite to render it stronger, or proportion it to the size of your garrison, you will have it done. The cannon you will stand in need of, as much as can be spared, will be furnished from the Galleys and Fort Mifflin, from whence also you will derive supplies of military stores. * * *
I have sent Captain Duplessis,2 with some officers and men, to take the immediate direction of the Artillery, for your garrison. He is also to superintend any works that may be wanted. If there should be any deficiency of men for the artillery, the security of the garrison will require you to assist him with a few additionals from your detachment. You should lose not a moment’s time in getting to the place of your destination, and making every proper preparation for its defence. Any delay might give the enemy an opportunity of getting there before you, which could not fail being of the most fatal consequence. If in the progress of your march, you should fall in with any detachment of the enemy, bending towards the same object, and likely to gain it before you, and from intelligence should have reason to think yourself equal to the task, you will by all means attack them, and endeavor by that mean to disappoint their design. I have written to General Newcomb, of the Jersey militia, to give you all the aid in his power, for which you will accordingly apply when necessary.
Upon the whole, Sir, you will be pleased to remember, that the post with which you are now intrusted is of the utmost importance to America, and demands every exertion you are capable of for its security and defence. The whole defence of the Delaware absolutely depends upon it, and consequently all the enemy’s hopes of keeping Philadelphia, and finally succeeding in the object of the present campaign. Influenced by these considerations, I doubt not your regard to the service, and your own reputation, will prompt you to every possible effort to accomplish the important end of your trust, and frustrate the intentions of the enemy. Given at Head-Quarters, this 7th day of October, 1777.1
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Head-Quarters, 8 October, 1777.
I yesterday received certain intelligence, that the enemy had proceeded up Hudson’s River from New York, and landed a body of men at Verplanck’s Point, a few miles below Peekskill. This movement fully explains those appearances, which lately induced General Dickinson to apprehend a second incursion into the Jerseys; and gives reason to believe, that, instead of that, the enemy meditate a serious blow against our posts in the Highlands. This circumstance is somewhat alarming, as the situation of our affairs this way has obliged us to draw off so large a part of our force from Peekskill, that what now remains there may perhaps prove inadequate to the defence of it. Should any disaster happen, it is easy to foresee the most unhappy consequences. The loss of the Highland passes would be likely to involve the reduction of the forts. This would open the navigation of the river, and enable the enemy with facility to throw their force into Albany, get into the rear of General Gates, and either oblige him to retreat, or put him between two fires. The success of the present attempt upon Peekskill may, in its consequences, entirely change the face of our northern affairs, and throw them into a very disagreeable and unfavorable train.
I am confident, that no arguments need be used to dispose you to contribute every effort in your power, to obviate an evil of so great magnitude; and as I do not conceive, there can be now any danger of your militia being wanted at home, for the internal security of your State, I am persuaded you will readily consent to my request, that as large a part of them, as can be prevailed upon to go, may immediately march with all expedition to the aid of General Putnam. At this distance, unacquainted with what may have taken place, I cannot give any particular directions to regulate their march; they must govern themselves by circumstances, and act according to the intelligence and orders they may receive from General Putnam.
In order to this, if you should think it proper to send a body agreeable to my request, it would be adviseable that the officer under whose command they go, should without delay advise General Putnam of his intended approach and desire his instructions how to proceed. In the mean time this rout must be directed towards the Clove and thence towards the New Windsor.
I shall be happy if your views and mine concur in this matter, and that you may be able to afford any material succor to a post the fate of which is of such essential importance to the prosperity of our northern concerns, as in a great measure to threaten their ruin if it should be lost, and the disappointment of all those flattering prospects which our late successes in that quarter have afforded us.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL POTTER.1
9 October, 1777.
A Person of the name of Patterson (an Inhabitant of Wilmington) can give you a particular acct. of the Situation, strength, &c. of the Enemy at that place; from whence you may judge of the practicability of attempting something by way of surprize (if your numbers are adequate) upon the Garrison—After having made every necessary enquiry proper for an enterprize of this kind let me know the result by an officer and whether the undertaking is feasable with, or without a little aid from hence.
Your enquiries into these matters should be made with much circumspection, to avoid giving alarm.—and your manœuvers should be towards the Enemy and retrograde occasionally to lull them into security, unless your own strength is sufficient to effect the work, in that case the rapidity of the attempt may perhaps contribute to the success of it—
You will readily perceive that nothing herein, is positive, but altogether discretionary; to be undertaken or not, as circumstances and Information shall warrant.—If a successful blow could be aim’d at Wilmington, very happy consequences would result from it, besides possessing ourselves of the wounded that now are there for the purpose of exchanging any for such Prisoners of ours as are in the Enemy’s hands—but in the midst of this it is not to be forgotten, that one great object of your expedition is to deprive the Enemy of supplies from Chester County and to Interrupt their Convoys from Chester Town Wilmington, &c. whilst our defence upon the River, obliges them to have recourse to a transportation of necessaries by Land from their shipping.—Watch the Communication between Phild. and the Enemy’s shipping well, and let me hear from you frequently, especially on the subject of the proposed Expedition.—Patterson can point out others to you (Inhabitants of Wilmington) who he thinks would give every aid in their power; but then danger may attend the Comn. of the scheme to too many.—If an Idea was thrown out that the corp you commanded consisted of the Eastern Shore Militia returning, it might possibly remove suspicion of the real design (if it should be found practicable to make an attempt upon the Enemy at Wilmington) with your Troops.
I have, &c.1
TO LIEUTENANT-COLONEL SAMUEL SMITH.
Skippack Camp, 11 October, 1777.
I rec’d yours of the 9th, informing me of the occasion of the late firing. I imagine the enemy still persist in their attempt, as the firing has continued by intervals ever since.2 As the rear of the fort is only defended by a picket work, I think you ought to lose no time in throwing up a Bank against the picket, which would strengthen it and make it defensible against shot. If some blinds were thrown up, within the area of the fort, they wou’d be a security against shells, of which I think you are in more danger than from shot. You seem apprehensive, if the enemy possess province Island, that your men must quit their barracks. In that case you should think of finding out some more secure place of sheltering them. I cannot at present think of any place better than between the east face of the Stone Fort and the lower battery; they will at least be safe there until an attack begins from the water. I desired Captain Brewer, who went from hence yesterday, to caution the Commodore against an unnecessary expenditure of ammunition, and beg that you will also be careful in that point; for should the enemy cut off your intercourse with us, you will find the want of it. I am, &c.
P. S. Should the Enemy get Possession of the ground near the Pest House, what effect wou’d their fire have upon Shipping? If this ground would be advantageous to us, do you think part of your garrison, part of that intended for Red Bank, and some militia from Jersey could possess and defend it? It is my wish that Colo. Greene and you, in concert with the gentln. of the navy, would turn your attention to every place, which will contribute to the defence of the water obstructions, and, if it is in my power to afford assistance, I will do it. * * *
TO GOVERNOR GEORGE CLINTON.
Head-Quarters, 15 October, 1777.
I was this day honored with yours of the 9th, containing a full account of the storm of Forts Montgomery and Clinton. General Putnam had given me information of the loss two days before, but not in so full and ample a manner. It is to be regretted that so brave a resistance did not meet with a suitable reward. You have however the satisfaction of knowing, that every thing was done, that could possibly be done by a handful against a far superior force. This I am convinced was the case. This affair might have been attended with fatal consequences, had not there been a most providential intervention in favor of General Gates’s arms on the 7th instant; but I am fully of opinion, that Sir Henry Clinton will not advance much farther up the river, upon hearing of Burgoyne’s defeat and retreat. Nothing but absolute necessity could have induced me to withdraw any further part of the troops allotted for the defence of the posts up the North River; but such was the reduced state of our Continental regiments, after the battle of Brandywine, and such the slowth and difficulty of procuring reinforcements of militia from the southward, that without the troops from Peekskill we should scarcely have been able to keep the field against General Howe. I had the greatest hopes, that General Putnam would draw in as many Connecticut militia, as would replace the Continental troops, and I make no doubt but he did all in his power to obtain them in time. I am sorry that you were under the necessity of destroying the frigates. The only consolation is, that if we had not done it ourselves, the enemy would either have done it for us, or have carried them down for their own use.
Since the battle of Germantown, upon the 4th instant, the two armies have remained in a manner quiet. The enemy have made several attempts to remove the obstructions in the Delaware, but hitherto without effect. They are now making preparations to raise batteries in the rear of Fort Mifflin, which commands the uppermost chevaux-de-frise. If we can maintain that post, and one opposite upon the Jersey shore, I am in hopes our ships, galleys, and floating batteries will be able to keep their stations and repel any force, that can be brought by water directly in front. I most earnestly expect further news from the northward, which I hope will bring us accounts of the total ruin of Burgoyne’s army.
It is not unlikely that one of Sir Henry Clinton’s objects will be to destroy the boats and small craft in the North River. Should this be the case, and he succeed, I think it will be advisable for you to set a number of workmen to building flat-bottomed boats at some secure places within three or four miles of the water, from which they may be easily hauled. They are so exceedingly useful, and so frequently wanted, that I think the business cannot, in such case, be too soon begun or carried on with too much expedition. I have written to General Putnam upon the same subject. I am, dear Sir, &c.
P. S. By sundry concurring accounts of persons out of Philadelphia and from Deserters, the Enemy’s loss in the action of the 4th was very considerable. The lowest say it was 1500 killed and wounded, others 2000, and some as high as 2500. Perhaps the two last are exaggerated, but there are many reasons to believe that the first cannot much exceed the mark. For they were compleatly surprized and drove in great disorder for a long time and for a considerable distance at every point of attack. Had it not been for the extreme fogginess of the day which prevented our several Columns discovering each others movements and from improving the advantages which they separately gained, in all probability the day would have been a most fortunate one—But owing to that circumstance they got confused and retreated at a moment when there was every appearance of victory in our favor. The Enemy lost some valuable officers, among the slain Genl. Agnew and it is said another Genl. officer was dangerously wounded. We are not without [NA] on our part Brigadr. Nash was wounded by a Cannon Ball and is since dead. We had also several other officers of inferior rank wounded and some killed—This crude undigested account I dont mean for publication. I hope all will yet end well.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, at Peter Wintz’s,
I have been duly honored with your favors of the 12th & 13th inst. with their several Enclosures.
In respect to the resolution, directing a flag to be sent to General Howe, I am inclined to think, that the information upon which it was framed was without foundation. The letters, which have come from our officers, who have been lately taken, generally mention that their treatment has been tolerably good; and such privates as have escaped have said nothing, in the course of their examination, of their having been compelled to work. For these reasons I have taken the liberty to decline sending the flag.1 At the same time Congress may be assured, if our prisoners suffer any wrongs, I shall take every means in my power to have them redressed as soon as I am apprized of them.
It is with the highest satisfaction I congratulate Congress on the success of our arms at the northward in the action of the 7th, an event of the most interesting importance at this critical juncture. From the happy train in which things then were, I hope we shall soon hear of the most decisive advantages.1 We moved this morning from the encampment at which we had been for six or seven days past, and are just arrived at the grounds we occupied before the action of the 4th. One motive for coming here is to divert the enemy’s attention and force from the forts. These they seem to consider as capital objects, and, from their operations, mean to reduce if possible. At present their designs are directed against Fort Mifflin and the chevaux-de-frise. I have therefore detached a further reinforcement to the garrison.
I yesterday, through the hands of Mrs. Ferguson of Graham Park, received a letter of a very curious and extraordinary nature from Mr. Duché, which I have thought proper to transmit to Congress. To this ridiculous, illiberal performance, I made a short reply, by desiring the bearer of it, if she should hereafter by any accident meet with Mr. Duché, to tell him I should have returned it unopened, if I had had any idea of the contents; observing at the same time, that I highly disapproved the intercourse she seemed to have been carrying on, and expected it would be discontinued. Notwithstanding the author’s assertion, I cannot but suspect that the measure did not originate with him; and that he was induced to it by the hope of establishing his interest and peace more effectually with the enemy.1
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THOMAS WHARTON, PRESIDENT OF PENNSYLVANIA.
Head-Quarters, 17 October, 1777.
As the term of service of great numbers of the militia of this State, who were called out some time ago, has expired, and their places have been by no means punctually filled up by succeeding classes, I am constrained to call upon you, in the most pressing manner, to exert the powers of government, not only to keep up the number of four thousand men demanded by Congress, but of a much greater number, if they can possibly be armed and accoutred. When the capital of your State is in the enemy’s hands, and when they can only be dislodged from thence by a powerful reinforcement of militia, in aid of Continental troops, there should not be a moment’s hesitation, whether one or two classes should be commanded to appear; but at least one half of the men, capable to bear arms, should be called into the field. By exertions of this kind, New York, though sorely oppressed by our avowed enemies, and more so by our internal foes, has made a noble resistance; and New Jersey has kept the enemy out of her limits, (except now and then a hasty descent,) without a Continental regiment. Besides doing this, she has sent and is now sending reinforcements to this and the northern army. It will be no great while, before the militia from Maryland and Virginia will have performed their tour of duty; and from the distance, which most of them have to travel before they reach the army, I cannot expect much more assistance from those quarters, in the course of the remaining part of this campaign.
I assure you, Sir, it is matter of astonishment to every part of the continent, to hear that Pennsylvania, the most opulent and populous of all the States, has but twelve hundred militia in the field, at a time when the enemy are endeavoring to make themselves completely masters of, and to fix their winter quarters in, her capital. Without the free navigation of Delaware I am confident, that General Howe will never remain in Philadelphia, and I am as confident, that, had I a sufficient force to afford as much assistance to the forts upon the Delaware as their importance deserves, he would not be able to possess them. I have spared as many of the Continental troops as I possibly can, without endangering the safety of this army, and I shall still continue to afford every further relief in my power. From this state of facts, I hope that you will not lose a moment, in calling upon and endeavoring to rouse the people of this province to a manly and effectual opposition; and I know of no means so likely to answer, as not to confine the demand to any particular number, but to call upon every man to come forth. The county lieutenants should be particularly careful to see, that all those, who have arms and accoutrements of their own, bring them out; for they have a very mistaken notion, that there are full supplies in the Continental stores. Many even come out without blankets, expecting to find them.
There is another matter, which I beg leave to recommend to the serious consideration of the legislature of your State; that is, the falling upon some mode of completing and keeping up the quota of your Continental regiments. Upon an average, your battalions have never been above one third full; and now many of them are far below even that. From the extravagant prices given to substitutes in the militia, in the different States, it has become impossible to recruit men upon the bounty allowed by Congress. The New England States and Virginia have begun to adopt the mode of drafting, and, I am informed, they have succeeded very well. I am convinced, that this will be found the only method of raising Continental troops; and, if the measure was to become general throughout the States, it would not be deemed a hardship. I mention this matter to you at this time, in the hope that you will as soon as possible fall upon this, or some other mode, to recruit your regiments in the course of this fall and winter; and, as it is more than probable, that our opposition will not end with this campaign, we ought to endeavor to have a respectable army in the field in the spring, before the enemy can receive further reinforcements from Europe. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE.
Matuchen Hill, 17 October, 1777.
Your favor of the 5th instant, as also that of the 11th by Baron de Kalb, are both at hand. It is not in my power at present to answer your query respecting the appointment of this gentleman. But, Sir, if there is any truth in a report, which has been handed to me, vizt: that Congress hath appointed, or as others say are about to appoint, Brigadier Conway a major-general in this army, it will be as unfortunate a measure as ever was adopted. I may add, (and I think with truth,) that it will give a fatal blow to the existence of the army. Upon so interesting a subject, I must speak plain. The duty I owe my country, the ardent desire I have to promote its true interests, and justice to individuals, requires this of me. General Conway’s merit, then, as an officer, and his importance in this army, exists more in his imagination, than in reality. For it is a maxim with him, to leave no service of his own untold, nor to want any thing, which is to be obtained by importunity.
But as I do not mean to detract from him any merit he possesses, and only wish to have the matter taken up upon its true ground, after allowing him every thing that his warmest friends will contend for, I would ask, why the youngest brigadier in the service (for I believe he is so) should be put over the heads of all the eldest, and thereby take rank and command gentlemen, who but yesterday were his seniors; gentlemen, who, I will be bold to say, (in behalf of some of them at least,) are of sound judgment and unquestionable bravery? If there was a degree of conspicuous merit in General Conway, unpossessed by any of his seniors, the confusion, which might be occasioned by it, would stand warranted upon the principles of sound policy; for I do readily agree, that this is no time for trifling; but, at the same time that I cannot subscribe to the fact, this truth I am very well assured of (though I have not directly, nor indirectly, exchanged a word with any one of the brigadiers on the subject, nor am I certain that any one of them has heard of the appointment), that they will not serve under him. I leave you to guess, therefore, at the situation this army would be in at so important a crisis, if this event should take place. These gentlemen have feelings as officers; and though they do not dispute the authority of Congress to make appointments, they will judge of the propriety of acting under them.
In a word, the service is so difficult, and every necessary so expensive, that almost all our officers are tired out. Do not, therefore, afford them good pretexts for retiring. No day passes over my head without application for leave to resign. Within the last six days, I am certain, twenty commissions at least have been tendered to me. I must, therefore, conjure you to conjure Congress to consider this matter well, and not, by a real act of injustice, compel some good officers to leave the service, and thereby incur a train of evils unforeseen and irremediable. To sum up the whole, I have been a slave to the service; I have undergone more than most men are aware of, to harmonize so many discordant parts; but it will be impossible for me to be of any further service, if such insuperable difficulties are thrown in my way. You may believe me, my good Sir, that I have no earthly views, but the public good, in what I have said. I have no prejudice against General Conway, nor desire to serve any other brigadier, further than I think the cause will be benefited by it; to bring which to a speedy and happy conclusion, is the most fervent wish of my soul.1
With respect to the wants of the militia, in the articles of clothing, you must be well convinced, that it is not in my power to supply them in the smallest degree, when near one half of our own men are rendered unfit for service for want of these things. I can add no more at present, than that I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO BARON D’ARENDT.
Head-Quarters, 18 October, 1777.
Being recovered from the indisposition under which you lately labored, you are to proceed immediately to Fort Mifflin on Mud Island and to take the command of the troops there, and those which may be sent. I shall not prescribe any particular line for your conduct, because I repose the utmost confidence in your bravery, knowledge, and judgment; and because the mode of defence must depend on a variety of circumstances, which will be best known to those, who are on the spot. I will add, that the maintenance of this post is of the last importance to the States of America, and that preventing the enemy from obtaining possession of it, under the smiles of Heaven, will be the means of our defeating the army to which we are now opposed; or of obliging them disgracefully to abandon the city of Philadelphia, which is now in their hands.
I have detached to-day a further reinforcement to the garrison,1 and have instructed Colonel Greene, who commands at Red Bank, to coöperate with you, and to render you every assistance in his power. You will maintain with him, and with Commodore Hazelwood, who commands our fleet, a good understanding and the strictest harmony. These will be essential; and, mutually aiding each other, I shall look forward for the most happy events. You will be particularly attentive to the state of your ammunition and provision, advising me of the same from time to time, and of such supplies as you may judge necessary to be sent to you. You will also report to me the situation of the garrison, as often as it shall be requisite, and will not fail to transmit me frequent and the most early intelligence of every important occurrence. I shall be done after recommending your utmost despatch to arrive at the garrison; and you have my warmest wishes, that the command may prove honorable to yourself and beneficial to America. I am, &c.1
TO JOHN AUGUSTINE WASHINGTON.
Philadelphia County, 18 October, 1777.
Your kind and affectionate Letters of the 21st of Septr. & 2d Inst. came safe to hand.
When my last to you was dated I know not; for truly I can say, that my whole time is so much engrossed, that I have scarcely a moment, but sleeping ones, for relaxation, or to indulge myself in writing to a friend. The anxiety you have been under, on acct of this army, I can easily conceive. Would to God there had been less cause for it; or that our situation at present was such as to promise much from it. The Enemy crossed the Schuylkill which, by the by, above the Falls (& the Falls you know is only five miles from the city) is as easily crossed in any place as Potomac Run, Aquia, or any other broad & shallow water, rather by stratagem; tho I do not know, that it was in our power to prevent it, as their manœuvres made it necessary for us to attend to our Stores, which lay at Reading, towards which they seemed bending their course, and the loss of which must have proved our Ruin. After they had crossed, we took the first favorable opportunity of attacking them.
This was attempted by a night’s march of fourteen miles to surprise them, which we effectually did, so far as to reach their guards before they had notice of our coming; and but for a thick Fog, which rendered so infinitely dark at times as not to distinguish friend from Foe at the distance of thirty yards, we should, I believe, have made a decisive and glorious day of it. But Providence or some unaccountable something designed it otherwise; for after we had driven the Enemy a mile or two, after they were in the utmost confusion and flying before us in most places, after we were upon the point, (as it appeared to every body,) of grasping a compleat victory, our own troops took fright and fled with precipitation and disorder. How to acct for this, I know not; unless, as I before observed, the Fog represented their own Friends to them for a Reinforcement of the Enemy, as we attacked in different Quarters at the same time, and were about closing the wings of our army when this happened. One thing, indeed, contributed not a little to our misfortune, and that was want of ammunition on the right wing, which began the Engagement, and in the course of two hours and forty minutes, which time it lasted, had, (many of them,) expended the forty Rounds, that they took into the Field. After the Engagement we removed to a place about twenty miles from the Enemy, to collect our Forces together, to take care of our wounded, get furnished with necessaries again, and be in a better posture, either for offensive or defensive operations. We are now advancing towards the Enemy again, being at this time within twelve miles of them.
Our loss in the late action was, in killed, wounded, and missing, about one thousand men, but of the missing, many, I dare say, took advantage of the times, and deserted. Genl. Nash of No. Carolina was wounded, and died two or three days after. Many valuable officers of ours was also wounded, and some killed. The Enemy’s loss is variously reported—none make it less than 1500 (killed & wounded) & many estimate it much larger. Genl. Agnew of theirs was certainly killed—many officers wounded among whom some of distinction. This we certainly know, that the Hospital at Philadelphia & several large Meeting Houses, are filled with their wounded besides private Houses with the Horses. In a word, it was a bloody day. Would to Heaven I could add, that it had been a more fortunate one for us.
Our distress on acct. of Cloathing is great, and in a little time must be very sensibly felt, unless some expedient can be hit upon to obtain them. We have since the Battle got in abt. 1200 Militia from Virginia—about the same number have gone off from this State and Jersey but others are promised in lieu of them—with truth however it may be said, that this State acts most infamously, the People of it, I mean, as we derive little or no assistance, from them. In short they are, in a manner, totally, disaffected, or in a kind of Lethargy.
The Enemy are making vigorous efforts to remove the obstructions in the Delaware, and to possess themselves of the Works which have been constructed for the Defence of them.—I am doing all I can in my present situation to save them, God only knows which will succeed.
I very sincerely congratulate you on the change in your Family. Tell the young couple, after wishing them joy of their union, that it is my sincere hope, that it will be as happy and lasting as their present joys are boundless. The Enclosed Letter of thanks to my sister for her elegant present you will please to deliver; and, with sincere affection for you all, I am, &c.
P. S. I had scarce finished this Letter when by express from the State of New York I received the Important and glorious news which follows:—
“Albany 15th Octr., 1777.
“Last night at 8 o’clock the capitulation whereby General Burgoyne & whole Army surrendered themselves Prisoners of War, was signed and this Morning they have to march out towds, the River above Fish Creek with the Honours of War (and there ground their Arms) they are from thence to be marched to Massachusetts bay.
“We congratulate you on this happy event, & remain &c.
I most devoutly congratulate you, my country, and every well wisher to the cause on this signal stroke of Providence. Yrs. as before.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
Camp, 20 Miles fromPhila., 19 October, 1777.
Your favor of the 16th I received yesterday morning, and was much obliged by the interesting contents.2 The defeat of General Burgoyne is a most important event, and such as must afford the highest satisfaction to every well-affected American breast. Should Providence be pleased to crown our arms in the course of the campaign with one more fortunate stroke, I think we shall have no great cause for anxiety respecting the future designs of Britain. I trust all will be well in His good time. The obvious intention of Sir Henry Clinton was to relieve General Burgoyne, and being disappointed in that by his surrender, I presume he will make an expeditious return. I am happy to find you at the head of so respectable a force, and flatter myself, if he should land with a view to action, though I do not expect it, you will give us a happy account of him. I believe, from the bravery of the garrison of Fort Montgomery, he purchased victory at no inconsiderable expense. General Campbell was certainly killed. This they mention in their own printed account, but call him colo. of the fifty-second regiment. He was a general on the American establishment, so declared in one of the orderly books, which fell into our hands.1
I have but little to add respecting the situation of affairs here. They remain much as they were, when I wrote you last. To remove the obstructions in the river seems to be a capital object with the enemy. Their attempts hitherto have not succeeded, and I hope they will not. I am extremely sorry for the death of Mrs. Putnam, and sympathize with you upon the occasion. Remembering that all must die, and that she had lived to an honorable age, I hope you will bear the misfortune with that fortitude and complacency of mind, that become a man and a Christian. I am, dear Sir, with great esteem, yours, &c.1
TO JOHN HANCOCK.1
Head-Quarters, 22 October, 1777.
It gives me real pain to learn, that the declining state of your health, owing to your unwearied attention to public business, and the situation of your private affairs, oblige you to relinquish a station, though but for a time, which you have so long filled with acknowledged propriety. Motives as well of a personal as of a general concern make me regret the necessity that compels you to retire, and to wish your absence from office may be of as short a duration as possible. In the progress of that intercourse, which has necessarily subsisted between us, the manner in which you have conducted it on your part, accompanied with every expression of politeness and regard to me, gives you a claim to my warmest acknowledgments.
I am not so well informed of the situation of things up the North River, as to be able to give you any satisfactory advice about your route. I should rather apprehend it might be unsafe for you to travel that way at this time, and would recommend, if you can do it without any material inconvenience, that you should defer your journey till there is some change in affairs there, or till they have taken a more settled form. If you should, however, resolve to proceed immediately, and will be pleased to signify the time, an escort of horse will meet you at Bethlehem, to accompany you to General Putnam’s camp, where you will be furnished with another escort in the further prosecution of your journey.
I am extremely obliged to you for your polite tender of services during your intended residence at Boston, and shall always be happy, when leisure and opportunity permit, if you will give me the pleasure of hearing from you. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL SULLIVAN.
Head-Quarters, 24 October, 1777.
It ever has been, and I hope ever will be a ruling principle with me, to endeavor to do impartial justice to every officer, over whom I have the honor to preside. I shall therefore in answer to the queries, contained in your letter of this date, readily declare, that, although I ascribed the misfortune, which happened to us on the 11th of September, principally to the information of Major Spear, transmitted to me by you, yet I never blamed you for conveying that intelligence. On the contrary, considering from whom and in what manner it came to you, I should have thought you culpable in concealing it. The Major’s rank, reputation, and knowledge of the country, gave him a full claim to credit and attention. His intelligence was no doubt a most unfortunate circumstance, as it served to derange the disposition that had been determined on, in consequence of prior information of the enemy’s attempt to turn and attack our right flank; which ultimately proving true, too little time was left us, after discovering its certainty, to form a new plan, and make adequate arrangements to prevent its success. Hence arose that hurry and consequent confusion, which afterwards ensued. But it was not your fault, that the intelligence was eventually found to be erroneous.
With respect to your other query, whether your being posted on the right was to guard that flank, and if you had neglected it, I can only observe, that the obvious if not declared purpose of your being there implied every necessary precaution for the security of that flank. But it is at the same time to be remarked, that all the fords above Chad’s, which we were taught to apprehend danger from, were guarded by detachments from your division; and that we were led to believe, by those whom we had reason to think well acquainted with the country, that no ford above our pickets could be passed, without making a very circuitous march.
Upon the whole, then, no part of your conduct, preceding the action, was in my judgment reprehensible. What happened on your march to the field of battle, your disposition there, and behavior during the action, I can say nothing about, no part till the retreat commenced having come under my immediate observation. I can only add, therefore, that the whole tenor of your conduct, so far as I have had opportunities of judging, has been spirited and active. I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, 24 October, 1777.
I do myself the honor of transmitting to Congress the enclosed copies of sundry letters just now received, and congratulate them most sincerely on the important intelligence which they contain. The damage the enemy have sustained in their ships, I hope, will prevent their future attempts to gain the passage of the river; and the repulse of the troops under Count Donop, and his captivity, I flatter myself, will also be attended with the most happy consequences.1 At the time these actions happened, a supply of ammunition was on the way to the forts; and I have also ordered a further quantity to be immediately sent. By Colonel Blaine, one of the issuing commissaries, who left Red Bank the morning before the action, I am happily informed that he had thrown considerable supplies of provision into both garrisons. He also adds, that he came from Jersey this morning, and that the enemy had recrossed the Delaware and returned to Philadelphia. I have written to Colonel Greene, that the prisoners must be immediately sent from his post; and Mr. Clymer, a deputy under Mr. Boudinot, will set out to-morrow morning to make a proper disposition of them.1
It gives me great concern to inform Congress, that, after all my exertions, we are still in a distressed situation for want of blankets and shoes. At this time no inconsiderable part of our force is incapable of acting, through the deficiency of the latter; and I fear, without we can be relieved, it will be the case with two-thirds of the army in the course of a few days. I am and have been waiting with the most anxious impatience for a confirmation of General Burgoyne’s surrender. I have received no further intelligence respecting it, except vague report, than the first account, which came to hand so long ago as Saturday morning. If Congress have had authentic advices about it, I wish to be favored with them. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL FORMAN.
Skippack Road, 15th Mile Stone,
My Letter of the 21st Inst. (which I hope has got safe to your hands) would amply convey to you my Ideas of the Importance of Red Bank, and leaves me little to add on that head, saving, that the more it is considered, the more essential it appears, to use every possible means for its preservation.
The late check which the Enemy met with, in attempting to storm the Fort at that place is a most fortunate event; but I am far from conceiving that it will deter them from endeavoring by slower, and more effectual means, to possess themselves of it.—To make themselves perfect masters of the River and the defences of the Cheveaux de Frieze it is essential to them to occupy that spot. It is equally essential to us to disappoint them, by every exertion in our power; I wish therefore, most ardently, to hear of your being in the neighborhood with a respectable body of Militia, as the preservation of these Forts will, in the judgment of most men, rid Phild. of their present guests, and Jersey of the disagreeable Situation of being between two Fires; for it is not to be expected that the Enemy will remain long quiet after having once established themselves in the City—Jersey must then afford them supplies, be ravaged with Impunity from a force constantly kept for protection of the Inhabitants—how burthensome this will be, let the people themselves judge.
Colo. Green who commands at Red bank seems to apprehend nothing from a storm, but every thing from an Investiture, as the work is contracted and unprovided with the smallest defence against shells, which would drive them out immediately. A siege therefore must be prevented—and this can not be prevented without the assistance of your Militia—I am too well acquainted with your activity and zeal to add more on this head, and therefore conclude with strong assurances of being Dr. Sir, &c.
CIRCULAR TO PULASKI AND COLONELS OF HORSE.
Headquarters, 25 October, 1777.
I am sorry to find that the liberty I granted to the light dragoons of impressing horses near the enemy’s lines has been most horribly abused and perverted into a mere plundering scheme. I intended nothing more than that the horses belonging to the disaffected in the neighborhood of the British Army, should be taken for the use of the dismounted dragoons, and expected, that they would be regularly reported to the Quarter Master General, that an account might be kept of the number and the persons from whom they were taken, in order to a future settlement.—Instead of this I am informed that under pretence of the authority derived from me, they go about the country plundering whomsoever they are pleased to denominate tories, and converting what they get to their own private profit and emolument. This is an abuse that cannot be tolerated; and as I find the license allowed them, has been made a sanction for such mischievous practices, I am under the necessity of recalling it altogether. You will therefore immediately make it known to your whole corps, that they are not under any pretence whatever to meddle with the horses or other property of any inhabitant whatever on pain of the severest punishment, for they may be assured as far as it depends upon me that military execution will attend all those who are caught in the like practice hereafter.
The more effectually to put it out of their power to elude this prohibition, all the horses in your corps, in the use of the non commissioned officers and privates, not already stamped with the Continental brand are without loss of time to be brought to the Qr. Master General to receive that brand; and henceforth if any of them shall be found with horses that are without it they shall be tried for marauding and disobedience of orders.
I am fully confident, you will be equally disposed with me to reprobate and abolish the practice complained of; and will adopt the strictest measures to fulfil the intention of this letter, and prevent its continuance in future. I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
Head-Quarters, 25 October, 1777.
I have your favor of the 20th, enclosing a copy of General Burgoyne’s capitulation, which was the first authentic intelligence I received of the affair. Indeed I began to grow uneasy and almost to suspect that the first accounts you transmitted to me were premature. As I have not received a single line from General Gates, I do not know what steps he is taking with the army under his command, and therefore cannot advise what is most proper to be done in your quarter. But I should think, if a junction of your forces was formed, part to proceed down upon one side of the river and part upon the other, that Sir Henry Clinton would be obliged to retreat immediately before you; or, if he suffered you to get between him and New York, you perhaps might in its weak state get into the city. I mention this merely as a matter of opinion, taking it for granted you will pursue the most proper and efficacious measure. Whatever may be determined upon, I beg it may be constantly communicated to me, as the operations of this army may depend much upon the situation of yours. * * * I am, dear Sir, &c.
CALL FOR A COUNCIL OF OFFICERS.
Head-Quarters, 26 October, 1777.
You will, very shortly, be called to a council of War, when your sentiments on the following questions will be asked.
1st, Whether it will be prudent in our present circumstances, and strength, to attempt by a General Attack to dislodge the Enemy; and if it is, and we unsuccessful, where we retreat to?
2d, If such an attack should not be thought eligible, what general disposition of the Army had best take place till the weather forces us from the Field?
3d, Where and in what manner, supposing the Enemy to keep possession of Philadelphia, had the Continental Troops best be Cantoned after they can no longer keep the Field?
4th, What measures can be adopted to cover the country near the City, and prevent the Enemy from drawing Supplies therefrom during the Winter?
5th, Will the Office of Inspector General to our Army, for the purpose principally, of establishing one uniform set of Manœuvres, and manual be advisable, as the time of the Adjutant General seems to be totally engaged with other business?
6th, Should Regimental promotion extend only to Captains Inclusively, or that of the Majority?
7th, Will it be consistent with propriety and good policy to allow Soldiers the reward offered to others for apprehending Deserters?
8th, The Commissaries Complaining of the number, and disproportion of the Rations which are Issued to the Troops, and at the same time of the advanced price of all kinds of Spirits, owing to the Imposition of the Sutlers upon the Soldiery, what regulation, and Remedy can be applied to rectify the one, and prevent the other? I am, Sir, &c.1
TO FRANCIS HOPKINSON AND JOHN WHARTON, OF THE NAVY BOARD.1
Skippack Road, 27 October, 1777.
The more I reflect upon the evil, that may arise from the enemy’s possessing themselves of our unfinished frigates up the Delaware, the more convinced I am of the indispensable obligation we are under to prevent it effectually. If no other method could be devised, I should be for absolutely burning them; but scuttling and sinking them, with or without ballast, as those, who are best acquainted with the difficulties of raising them in either state at this season, may determine, will in my judgment answer the end. We all know that the enemy have made one vigorous (though unsuccessful) effort to dispossess us of our forts, and drive off our vessels, which defend the chevaux-de-frise in the river; we know, also, that, besides having the Delaware frigate, they are busily employed in preparing two other large armed vessels at the city. If, in addition to these, they should by surprise or force obtain the frigates above Bordentown, and bring the whole in aid of their ships in a general attack upon our little fleet (thus surrounded) we may, but too easily without the spirit of divination, foretell the consequences. Their destruction will be certain and inevitable.
At present these frigates are of no use to us, while the hands are greatly wanted. Considered therefore in this point of view simply, the measure proposed, in my opinion, is highly expedient; and under the prevailing sentiment, that the enemy cannot hold Philadelphia, unless their shipping get up, it appears absolutely necessary. The fatal consequences, which may result from suffering the frigates to fall into the enemy’s hands, are too obvious to need more arguments to prove them; and when it is considered of how little importance they are to us in their present situation, prudence requires that they should be so disposed of as to be hereafter useful, and put out of the way of being destroyed by the enemy or being rendered serviceable to them.
Upon the whole, I take the liberty of delivering it as my clear opinion, that the frigates ought to be immediately and with the utmost secrecy sunk, either with or without ballast, (so as to make it next to impossible to raise them, without men’s diving either to unlade or fix their purchases,) and that their crews should be sent down to the fleet below, where sailors are exceedingly wanted.1 If I have stepped out of the line of my duty to make this request, I am persuaded you will excuse it when I add, that the good of the service, not only in my judgment but in that of others, absolutely requires it to be carried into execution. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO LANDON CARTER.
Philadelphia County, 27 October, 1777.
Accept my sincere thanks for your sollicitude on my Acct.—and for ye good advice contained in your little paper of the 27th Ulto.—at the same time that I assure you, that It is not my wish to avoid any danger which duty requires me to encounter. I can as confidently add, that it is not my intention to run unnecessary risques—In the Instance given by you, I was acting precisely in the line of my duty, but not in the dangerous situation you have been led to believe.—I was reconnoitring, but I had a strong party of Horse with me.—I was, as (I afterwards found) in a disaffected House at the head of Elk, but I was equally guarded agt. friend and Foe.—the information of danger then, came not from me.
So many accts. have been published of the battle of brandy wine, that nothing more can be said of it—the subsequent Ingagement on the 4th Instt. had every appearance (after a hot contest of two hours and forty minutes) of a glorious decision; but after driving the Enemy from their Incampment—possessing their ground—and being, as we thought, upon the point of grasping victory, it was snatched from us by means altogether unaccountable, excepting that a very heavy atmosphere, aided by the smoke from Field pieces and Small arms rendered it impossible, at times, to distinguish friend from Foe at the distance of 30 yards, which caused our Men, I believe, to take fright at each other. Since that the Enemy have retired to Phila., where they have been strengthening themselves as much as possible, whilst we hover round to cut of their Supplies.
The Enemy are exerting their utmost skill, to reduce the Forts constructed for the defence of the Cheveaux de friese in Delaware, and to drive of our little Fleet, employed in aid of them.—On the 22d Inst. Count Donop, a Hessian Officer of Rank, & great Military Abilities, with 1200 of his Countrymen undertook to storm one of these Works (called Fort Mercer at Red bank on the Jersey shore) when himself and about 400 others were killed and wounded—between two and three hundred were left slain, and badly wounded on the spot—the rest got of with their retreating brethren, who made the best of their way to Phila.—the Count is among the Wounded—supposed Mortally.
The next day, several of the Enemy’s Ships, having passed the lower Cheveaux de friese, aided by their Land Batteries, began a most tremendous cannonade upon Fort Mifflin (on an Island near the Pennsylvania shore) and on our Armed vessels adjoining, which continued Six hours without Intermission; and ended in the destruction of two of the Enemy’s Ships of War—one, a Sixty four gun Ship—the other 18—Our damage on both these occasions was inconsiderable—in the Attack on Fort Mercer we had abt. 30 Men killed and wounded—at Fort Mifflin, and the Ships, less. The possession of these defences is of such essential Importance to the Enemy that they are leaving no stone unturned to succeed—we are doing what we can (under many disadvantages) to disappoint them.
The great and important event to the Northward—of which no doubt you have heard—must be attended with the most fortunate consequences. It has caused Sir Henry Clinton’s expedition from New York, in aid of Burgoyne to end in (something more than smoke indeed) burning of Mills, Gentlemen’s Seats, and the Villages near the Water! an evident proof of their despair of carrying their diabolical designs into execution.—My Inclination leads me to give you a more minute detail of the Situation of our Army, but prudence forbids, as Letters are subject to too many Miscarriages.—My best respects attends the good family at Sabine Hall, Neighbours at Mount Airy, &c, & with Affecte. regard I remain, Dr. Sir.
P. S. I am persuaded you will excuse this scratch’d scrawl, when I assure you it is with difficulty I write at all.
I have this Instant received an acct. of the Prisoners taken by the Northern Army (Including Tories in arms agt. us) in the course of the Campaign—this singular Instance of Providence, and our good fortune under it exhibits a striking proof of the advantages which result from unanimity & a spirited conduct in the Militia—the Northern army before the surrender of Genl. Gates was reenforced by upwards of 12000 Militia who shut the only door by which Burgoyne could Retreat, and cut of all his supplies.—How different our case!—the disaffection of great part of the Inhabitants of this State—the languor of others & internal distraction of the whole, have been among the great and insuperable difficulties I have met with, and have contributed not a little to my embarrassment this Campaign,—but enough! I do not mean to complain, I flatter myself that a Superintending Providence is ordering every thing for the best—and that, in due time, all will end well.—that it may do so, and soon, is the most fervent wish of &c.
The General and Regimental Hospital not Including in the Above Return amounting to between 5 and 600 Men. Nor according to the said Acct. are the Staff Officers or Women.1
TO LIEUTENANT-COLONEL ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Head-Quarters, 30 October, 1777.
It having been judged expedient by the members of a council of war held yesterday, that one of the gentlemen of my family should be sent to General Gates, in order to lay before him the state of this army and the situation of the enemy, and to point out to him the many happy consequences, that will accrue from an immediate reinforcement being sent from the northern army, I have thought proper to appoint you to that duty, and desire that you will immediately set out for Albany, at which place or in the neighborhood, I imagine you will find General Gates.
You are so fully acquainted with the two principal points on which you are sent, namely, the “state of our army and the situation of the enemy,” that I shall not enlarge on these heads. What you are chiefly to attend to is, to point out in the clearest and fullest manner to General Gates the absolute necessity that there is for his detaching a very considerable part of the army, at present under his command, to the reinforcement of this; a measure that will in all probability reduce General Howe to the same situation in which General Burgoyne now is, should he attempt to remain in Philadelphia without being able to remove the obstructions in the Delaware, and opening a free communication with his shipping.
The force, which the members of the council of war judged it safe and expedient to draw down at present, are the three New Hampshire and fifteen Massachusetts regiments, with Lee’s and Jackson’s, two of the sixteen additionals. But it is more than probable, that General Gates may have destined part of these troops to the reduction of Ticonderoga, should the enemy not have evacuated it, or to the garrisoning of it, if they should. In that case, the reinforcement will vary according to circumstances; but if possible let it be made up to the same number out of other corps. If, upon your meeting with General Gates, you should find that he intends, in consequence of his success, to employ the troops under his command upon some expedition, by the prosecution of which the common cause will be more benefitted than by their being sent down to reinforce this army, it is not my wish to give any interruption to the plan. But if he should have nothing more in contemplation, than those particular objects, which I have mentioned to you, and which it is unnecessary to commit to paper, in that case you are to inform him, that it is my desire that the reinforcements before mentioned, or such part of them as can be safely spared, be immediately put in march to join this army.
I have understood, that General Gates has already detached Nixon’s and Glover’s brigades to join General Putnam; and General Dickinson informs me, that by intelligence, which he thinks may be depended upon, Sir Henry Clinton has come down the river with his whole force. If this be a fact, you are to desire General Putnam to send the two brigades forward with the greatest expedition, as there can be no occasion for them there.1 I expect you will meet Colonel Morgan’s corps upon their way down; if you do, let them know how essential their services are to us, and desire the Colonel, or commanding officer, to hasten their march, as much as is consistent with the health of the men after their late fatigues. Let me hear from you when you reach the North River, and upon your arrival at Albany. I wish you a pleasant journey, and am, dear Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
Head-Quarters, near Whitemarsh, 15 miles fromPhila.,
By this opportunity I do myself the pleasure to congratulate you on the signal success of the army under your command, in compelling General Burgoyne and his whole force to surrender themselves prisoners of war; an event that does the highest honor to the American arms, and which, I hope, will be attended with the most extensive and happy consequences. At the same time, I cannot but regret, that a matter of such magnitude, and so interesting to our general operations, should have reached me by report only, or through the channel of letters, not bearing that authenticity, which the importance of it required, and which it would have received by a line under your signature, stating the simple fact.
Our affairs having happily terminated at the northward, I have by the advice of my general officers sent Colonel Hamilton, one of my aids, to lay before you a full state of our situation, and that of the enemy in this quarter. He is well informed upon the subject, and will deliver my sentiments upon the plan of operations, that is become necessary to be pursued. I think it improper to enter into a particular detail, not being well advised how matters are circumstanced on the North River, and fearing that by some accident my letter might miscarry. From Colonel Hamilton you will have a clear and comprehensive view of things, and I persuade myself you will do all in your power to facilitate the objects I have in contemplation.
I am, Sir, your most obedient servant.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I was duly honored with Mr. Hancock’s Letter of the 25th with its several Inclosures.
I shall take the case of John More under consideration, and will transmit Colo. Mason my determination upon the same.
At this time, I cannot inform the Commissary whether any alterations have, or have not been made by Genl. Orders in the original ration establishment. I have been under the necessity from time to time to send away my Orderly Books, and they are necessary to be examined upon the subject. However I think it probable that a departure from the first allowance may have been found expedient, and directed by some authority, or the Commissary would not have adopted it.—In respect to the alteration referred to my consideration, it is a matter of consequence, and I have desired the Genl. Officers to inform themselves whether it will be agreeable to the Army at large or what other regulations may be necessary in this Instance—as soon as I have their sentiments, I will write to Congress, upon the subject.
The Enemy still consider the possession of our Posts upon the River of great importance, and from their preparation of Fascines, &c., and the best information I have been able to obtain, they will make further efforts to carry them. Viewing them in this light myself and imagining, that they would persevere in their plans to occupy them, I wrote some days ago in the most pressing terms to Genls Dickinson, Forman and Newcomb, to afford every aid in their power to the Militia of Jersey. As yet we have received but little, and I have no encouragement to expect that it will be much augmented in a short time. This does not proceed from a want of activity and exertion on the part of two first mentioned Gentlemen, whose conduct and zeal upon every occasion give them a claim to the Public esteem, but in a considerable degree from the peculiar circumstances of their State at this time. The apprehensions of an Invasion from Staten Island, keep a large proportion of the Militia from the Eastern and upper part of the State almost constantly employed at and in the neighborhood of Eliza. Town and Mr. Livingston’s Powers, as Governor, being expired, and no provision made, it seems, for such a contingency, there are none of sufficient authority to order them out till a new appointment can be had;—at least, there is ground to suspect that the orders and exertions of these two Gentlemen, unassisted by Civil authority, will not be attended with the advantages we wish, and which our affairs require. As to Genl. Newcomb, who is in the neighborhood of Red Bank, notwithstanding my most urgent and repeated solicitations, I have little to expect from him, if I may form an estimate of his future services from those he has already rendered.1
Under these circumstances, I have been obliged to detach a further reinforcement of Continental Troops under Genl. Varnum to maintain the two Garrisons if possible—besides sailors drawn from the line to man the Gallies. This detachment, when it arrives, added to the force now in the Forts will make the whole amount to 1600 effective rank and file sent from this Army.
After the action of the 4th ultimo at Germantown, I hoped we should have been in a situation to attack the enemy again on those grounds, and with more success than in the former instance; but this I was not able to effect. The severe rain on the 16th of September, the action on the 4th, the removal of our stores, and having to form a new elaboratory, added to the small number of hands engaged in the business of it, laid us under difficulties in the capital and essential article of ammunition, that could not be surmounted. Every exertion was directed to obtain supplies; but, notwithstanding, they were inadequate, too scanty, and insufficient to attempt any thing on a large and general scale, before the enemy withdrew themselves. With what we had, in case an experiment had been made, fortune might have decided in our favor for the present; but we should not have been afterwards in a situation to maintain the advantage we might have gained; and, if a repulse had taken place, and the enemy been pursued, for want of a reserve we should have been exposed to the most imminent danger of being ruined. The distress of the soldiers for want of shoes was also a powerful obstacle to the measure.
I could wish that our circumstances were now such as to authorize a general attack for dislodging them from the city; but I think that they are not. This also is the opinion of my general officers, upon a full and comprehensive view of matters, as Congress will perceive by the enclosed copy of the minutes of council on the 29th ultimo, which I have taken the liberty to transmit and lay before them. The superiority of numbers on the part of the enemy, in respect to regular troops; their superior discipline, and the redoubts and lines which they have thrown up between the two rivers and about the city; the happy state of our affairs at the northward, and the practicability of drawing succors from thence; the consequences of a defeat;—these were all motives, which led to a decision against an attack at this time. I have sent Colonel Hamilton, one of my aids, to General Gates, to give him a just representation of things, and to explain to him the expediency of our receiving the reinforcements, which have been determined necessary, if they will not interfere and frustrate any important plans he may have formed. Indeed I cannot conceive that there is any object now remaining, that demands our attention and most vigorous efforts so much, as the destruction of the army in this quarter. Should we be able to effect this, we shall have little to fear in future.
General Howe’s force, according to the statement now made, is more considerable than it was generally supposed to be. I did not think it quite so great myself, but always imagined the common estimate much too low; nor can I positively say what it really is. However, there are strong reasons to believe that it is not overrated. After the evacuation of Germantown, an almost infinite number of scraps and bits of paper were found, which, being separated and arranged with great industry and care, bear the marks of genuine and authentic returns at different periods. The manner in which they were destroyed and disposed of gives no room to suspect that it was the effect of design. In addition to this, I am informed by General Putnam that he had heard a reinforcement of four regiments was coming round to Delaware from New York. The enclosed return will give Congress a general view of the strength of this army when it was made, and a particular one of the forces of each State which compose it. By this they will perceive how greatly deficient the whole are in furnishing their just quotas. The militia from Maryland and Virginia are no longer to be counted on. All the former, except about two hundred, are already gone; and a few days, I expect, will produce the departure of the whole or chief part of the latter, from the importunate applications which some of them have made. Besides this diminution, I am apprehensive we shall have several men added to the sick list, by reason of the late excessive rain and want of clothes. We have not yet come to any determination respecting the disposition of our troops for the winter; supposing it a matter of great importance, and that for the present we should be silent upon it. The reasons will readily occur. By continuing the campaign, perhaps many salutary if not decisive advantages may be derived; but it appears to me that this must depend upon the supplies of clothing which the men receive. If they cannot be accommodated in this instance, it will be difficult if not impossible to do it without effecting their destruction.
I would take the liberty to mention, that I feel myself in a delicate situation with respect to the Marquis de Lafayette. He is extremely solicitous of having a command equal to his rank, and professes very different ideas, as to the purposes of his appointment, from those Congress have mentioned to me. He certainly did not understand them. I do not know in what light they will view the matter; but it appears to me, from a consideration of his illustrious and important connexions, the attachment which he has manifested for our cause, and the consequences which his return in disgust might produce, that it will be advisable to gratify him in his wishes; and the more so, as several gentlemen from France, who came over under some assurances, have gone back disappointed in their expectations. His conduct, with respect to them, stands in a favorable point of view, having interested himself to remove their uneasiness, and urged the impropriety of their making any unfavorable representations upon their arrival at home; and in all his letters has placed our affairs in the best situation he could. Besides, he is sensible, discreet in his manners, has made great proficiency in our language, and, from the disposition he discovered at the battle of Brandywine, possesses a large share of bravery and military ardor. There is a French gentleman here, Monsieur Vrigny, in whose favor the Marquis seems much interested. He assures me he is an officer of great merit, and, from that motive and a regard to the service, wishes to see him promoted. The rank he holds in France, and his present expectations, are contained in the enclosed copy of a paper given me by the Marquis. Monsieur Vrigny also has honorable certificates of his services, nearly corresponding with the Marquis’s account of them. If Congress are pleased to honor him with a commission in the army of the States, I must try to employ him.
I took the liberty some short time ago to mention to Congress the situation of the first nine raised Virginia regiments and the term for which they stand engaged and considering that we should suffer greatly by the loss of so large a part of our force which have been long inured to service, I thought it advisable to consult the officers commanding them upon the mode which should appear to them best calculated to reinlist them. They accordingly met and reported their sentiments in writing, a copy of which I have inclosed. I do not know, that expedients more promising of success, than those they have pointed out can be adopted. Congress will be pleased to give the matter their earliest attention, and to favor me with their opinion by the first opportunity, whether the indulgence and allowance they have proposed may be granted, and, if any additional Bounty may be given, what it shall be. The high sums paid for substitutes and drafts of late even in the Militia service, will make this necessary.—For the Soldiers being well apprised of that Fact, will not be induced to engage again during the war or for three years for the usual Premium.1
I would also lay before Congress a Remonstrance by the Subaltern officers of the Virginia line, founded on a reform I thought necessary to take place in the Regt. from that State.—These in their establishment were made to consist of Ten Companies—Two more than were assigned to those of the States in general. This and the great disproportion between the officers and men induced me to reduce them to a level with the rest belonging to the Continent—in order to prevent a considerable, unnecessary expence. To effect this, no new promotions are to be made in the Two extra Companies; viz: the 9th and 10th either to vacancies existing at the time of the regulation or to any future ones that may happen therein; and the Subalterns are to remain in their rank and command, till they can be promoted in the other eight companies, and their men incorporated. This is what they complain of. I have made a short state of facts, and wish Congress to determine upon them and the remonstrance, as they shall think proper.
At the request of Governor Clinton, I have transmitted a copy of his letter to me, giving an account of General Vaughan’s expedition up the North River after the capture of Fort Montgomery, and of the destruction committed by his troops in burning Kingston and the houses and mills on the river. According to the latest advices they have returned again; and it is reported, that they have destroyed the barracks and forts, and gone to New York; but this is not confirmed.1
A few days ago Mr. Franks of Philadelphia, agent for the British prisoners, sent out six thousand Continental dollars to Mr. Richard Graham of Virginia, for the subsistence of the Hessians and other prisoners in that State. The policy of suffering the enemy to support their prisoners with money, which they refuse themselves, and which they attempt to depreciate in every instance they possibly can, appears to me very questionable, and the more so, as it may be counterfeited. Besides, they have laid us under every difficulty they can devise, as to our prisoners in their hands. Nothing will do for their support but hard money. If the enemy were obliged to furnish the same, the quantity with us would be greater, and of course the means of relieving ours easier. I do not know what consequences a prohibition against receiving Continental money or the currency of any State from them might involve; I think the subject is worthy of the consideration of Congress, and for that reason I have mentioned it.
Nov. 3.—The report of the Enemy having destroyed the Forts and Barracks on the North River and of their having returned to New York is confirmed. I this morning received a letter from Genl. Putnam upon the subject, a copy of which is transmitted. The information, that they mean to reinforce Genl. Howe, I doubt not is true. It has come through several channels, and nothing is more probable. As to their having a further expedition in view, it seems to be questionable and General Burgoyne’s defeat and the Eastern Troops being ready to be employed in another way are circumstances against the measure.
Agreeable to my expectation the Virginia Militia are gone, so that we have none now in aid of the Continental Troops, but those of this State mentioned in the return, and a few from Maryland. I do not know what can or will be done to obtain further reinforcements of them.—But it appears to me, taking matters in any point of light, that further aids should come from Virginia and Maryland. For should we be able to accommodate the Continental forces with Cloaths so as to carry on a Winters Campaign, their assistance will be material, either to maintain a Blockade, or in any decisive Stroke we may attempt.—And if they cannot be so provided, and we should be obliged to retire into Quarters, their services will be still more necessary to assist in covering the country against incursions for forage and Provisions.—
The Militia of this State themselves, supposing they should be tolerably vigorous in their exertions will not be equal to the task—At least it will be difficult if not impracticable for ’em to do it. It is to be wished, that such as can be drawn out, may be engaged to serve three months or two at least, (if it can be effected) after their arrival in Camp, and that a mode could be adopted to supply their places with others at the expiration of their term, should the exigency of our affairs require it. A time for their continuance should be fixed, or they will always be uneasy & pushing off; and the longer circumstances will admit it to be, the better. For after the period incurs, for which they come, it will be impossible to retain ’em a moment. As to the number that should be required, it is difficult to determine.—However, it is likely, it will fall short of the requisition, as it ever has upon such occasions.
There is a report prevailing in Camp, which has come thro’ several Channels, that a successful expedition has been made upon Rhode Island, and 800 Prisoners taken with several pieces of Artillery and a large quantity of Salt. I heartily wish it may be true—but at present it wants confirmation.
Mr. Thomson’s letter of the 21st Ulto. with its enclosures came to hand yesterday—I join Congress most sincerely in congratulations on our important success in the surrender of Genl. Burgoyne at the Head of his Forces, and am happy they have received a confirmation of the event from Genl. Gates. I have, &c.1
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL VARNUM.
Head-Quarters, 1 November, 1777.
I hope this will find you arrived safe at Red Bank with your detachment. By letters from the Baron d’Arendt, who has retired for a few days to the Jersey side, for the benefit of his health, I understand that what they principally fear at Fort Mifflin is a surprise by night, or a lodgment upon the upper end of the Island, by which they may cover themselves before morning and open a battery upon the rear of the fort, which is only secured by palisadoes. The only method of guarding effectually against this, is by keeping boats stationed by night between Fort and Province Island, to give an immediate alarm; and when the weather is calm, if the galleys were to lay near the Island to be ready to begin a fire, upon the first landing of the enemy, it would harass and retard them much in their operations.
I am afraid that matters do not go on smoothly between the Commandant at Fort Mifflin and the Commodore, as there are every now and then complaints of inattention in the Commodore; but I do not know whether with just grounds. I beg you will do all in your power to reconcile any differences, that may have arisen, not by taking notice of them in a direct manner, but by recommending unanimity and demonstrating the manifest advantages of it. As the Commodore will have a considerable reinforcement after you arrive, I hope he will be able to afford more assistance than he has hitherto done.1
You will have an opportunity of seeing and conversing with the Baron d’Arendt, and I must beg you will lay such plans, as will most effectually contribute to the mutual support and defence of your posts; for you are to consider, if one falls, the other goes of course. As soon as you have looked about you, and taken a survey of the ground about you, I shall be glad to have your opinion of matters, I am, &c.
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Headquarters, 1 November, 1777.
I think it not only incumbent upon me but a duty which I owe the public to represent to you the unaccountable conduct of Brigr. Genl. Newcomb at this critical time. As soon as the enemy shewed a disposition to possess themselves of Billingsport and Red Bank, I wrote to him in the most urgent manner, to collect and keep up as many militia as he possibly could to assist in the defence of Red Bank in particular, till I could afford a proper Garrison of Continental Troops, and altho I recd, no very favorable accounts of his activity or exertions I imagined that he had been doing something towards it—On the 26th ulto. Genl. Forman arrived at Red Bank with a few of his own Continental Regt. and some of the mounted militia and wrote me as follows “The lower militia and a Genl. Newcomb have not as yet produced a single man. As being elder in command than Newcomb I take the liberty this day to issue orders for their immediate assembling, and will from time to time do every thing in my power to assemble them.” On the 29th he writes me again “previous to the Rect. of yours of the 27th, I had given orders to several of the militia officers of this part of the Country to assemble their men and have used my endeavors with General Newcomb to obtain a return of the men it is said he has assembled, that they might be put in some duty either in the Garrison or on some out Guards, but the General absolutely refuses to render me any account of himself or his men, that I am not able to inform your Excell’y whether he really has or has not any men assembled.” In another paragraph of the same letter he says “Yet I think I could be able to collect a respectable Body of Militia was I able to overcome the obstincy of or to displace Genl. Newcomb. From the best information I can collect he has at no time given any assistance either to the Garrisons or the fleet particularly in the late attack upon Red Bank he neither harrassed the Enemy in their advance during the assault or in their Retreat. He thinks himself only accountable to the Gov. or Majr. Genl. Dickenson. I should be glad of your Excellc. directions respecting my treatment of him.”
I shall make no comments but leave it to the opinions of yourself and the Gentlemen of the legislature whether such a man is fit to command in a part of the State immediately the object of the Enemy’s attention and in which the most vigorous measures ought to be pursued. If you would only direct him to obey Genl. Forman as a Senior Officer, much good to the service would result from it.
I had been more than commonly pressing with Genl. Newcomb to assemble men at Red Bank, because I found by letters from Genl. Forman that scarce any part of the 2000 men ordered under his command to the reinforcement of this Army were from a variety of circumstances to be expected and therefore I should be able to afford less assistance of Continental Troops to that valuable post.
Col. Dayton will inform you of the reduction of the Regiments of your State in point of numbers and of the distress which they will labor under for want of necessaries unless some measures can be fallen upon for supplying them. These are matters which deserve your most serious consideration and which I recommend to your attention.
It is in vain to think of filling up your Regiments by the common mode of inlistment while the pernicious practice of hiring substitutes for the Militia prevails, for what man will engage to serve during the War for a Bounty of twenty dollars, where he can get twice as much for serving one month in the militia. Some of the Eastern States and Virginia have adopted the mode of drafting, and I am told it succeeds, and was the practice universal the people would not think it a hardship. I do not mention this by way of dictating to or directing you; I only do it to shew what has been found to answer the end in other States. I am confident that could we ever be happy enough to fill the Continental Regt. we should never have occasion to trouble the Militia again.
Circumscribed as we are in our importations from abroad, the Cloathier General finds it impossible to comply with the full demands of the whole Army. It therefore becomes incumbent upon the different States to endeavor to procure the most material articles of Blankets, shoes and Stockings, at this inclement season, and I am convinced if assessments of these things were laid upon those only who do not perform military service, enough might be found to make the troops comfortable. I have repeatedly sent out Officers to make Collections, but they either do it partially or neglect it wholly; I must therefore entreat you to lay this matter before your legislature as early as possible, and press them to make provision in such way as seems to them most likely to answer the end. I have, &c.1
TO SIR WILLIAM HOWE.
Head-Quarters, 4 November, 1777.
I have been informed by Lieutenant-Colonel Frazer, who is now a prisoner in your possession, that Major Balfour, one of your aids, had assured him, that it was your earnest desire, that a general exchange of prisoners should take place on equitable terms, or, if this could not be effected, that the officers on both sides should be released on parole. This, I have no doubt, was done by your authority, and with an intention, that it should be communicated to me. I assure you, Sir, nothing would afford me more satisfaction, than to carry the first proposition into execution. But, lest we should still unhappily disagree about the privates to be accounted for, and that this may not operate to the prejudice of the officers, it is my wish, for their mutual relief, that their exchange may immediately take place, so far as circumstances of rank and number will apply; and if any should then remain, that they may return to their friends on parole. I am induced to mention an exchange, in preference to the other mode of release, supposing that it will be more agreeable to both parties.
While we are on this subject, I would take the liberty to suggest, that on the footing of our present agreement the colonels, who are your prisoners, cannot be exchanged, there being no officers of the like rank in your army prisoners with us. From this consideration, I am led to inquire, whether an equivalent cannot be fixed on to effect it, as has been practised in similar cases. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO JEREMIAH POWELL, PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF MASSACHUSETTS.
Camp, atWhitemarsh, 5 November, 1777.
I have been duly honored with your favor of the 25th ultimo, and join your honorable Board most heartily in congratulations on our success in the surrender of General Burgoyne and his army; an event of great importance, and which reflects the highest honor upon our arms. In respect to the embarkation of the prisoners, I take it for granted, that the beneficial consequences, the British nation would derive from their arrival in England will be sufficient motives for General Howe to use every possible exertion to get them away, and that no application for that end will be necessary. For, as soon as they arrive, they will enable the ministry to send an equal number of other troops from their different garrisons to join him here, or upon any other service against the American States. I shall be sorry, if their remaining should subject you to the inconveniences, which you seem to apprehend; and, if they can be accommodated, I think, in point of policy, we should not be anxious for their early departure. As to the transports, if General Howe is in a situation to send them, it is to be presumed, they will be properly appointed with provisions and wood, the terms of convention not obliging us to furnish their prisoners for a longer time, than they continue in our hands.1 I do not apprehend, that there will be any thing to fear from the vessels assigned for their transportation. The condition, [on] which they are to be allowed an entry, imports a truce, and no stipulations that can be made will be more obligatory. Nevertheless, prudence and the usage of nations do not only justify, but require, that every precaution should be had, previous to their being admitted into port, to prevent an infraction of treaty and any act incompatible with the design of their coming. What these precautions ought to be will naturally occur.
In fine, Sir, I do not know how far I should advise in this business, and suppose it probable, that Congress will give you their sentiments fully upon it, being possessed of all the circumstances, by a statement from General Gates, and also from General Heath. * * * I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO GENERAL THOMAS NELSON.
Camp at White Marsh, 12 miles fromPhiladelphia,
Your favor of the 26th ultimo, came to my hands yesterday, and merits my warmest acknowledgements. The idea you entertained of our force was unhappily but too well founded, and I now wish I had given more into your generous proposal; but the distance, and uncertainty of keeping Militia in service any length of time were obstacles under the then appearance of things, which seemed too great to be counterbalanced by the advantages of your coming which opened them to our view * * * but the glorious turn which our affairs to the Northward have since taken, makes a new plan, and Winter Campaign, if we can get our ragged and half naked soldiers clothed, indispensably necessary, as I think General Howe may be forced out of Philadelphia, or greatly distressed in his Quarters there, if we could draw a large body of Troops round the City.
The mode by which Men have lately been recruited, is hurtful in the extreme; and, unless a more effectual and less pernicious one can be adopted, I do not know where the mischief will end;—what may be the consequence. As the Assembly of Virginia is now sitting, I hope some vigorous and spirited exertions will be used to compleat the Regiments from that State; and shall I add my wishes, that it may contribute their aid towards Clothing of them, being well persuaded, unless the respective States give their assistance, we shall be in a very unhappy situation. If our Regiments were once compleated and tolerably well Armed and Clothed, the calls upon Militia afterwards would be rare; and ’till these measures are accomplished, our expenses will be enormous.
It is in vain to look back to our disappointment on the 4th Instant at Germantown. We must endeavor to deserve better of Providence, and, I am persuaded, she will smile upon us. The rebuff which the Enemy met with at Red Bank (in which Count Donop and about four or 500 Hessians were killed and wounded) and the loss of the Augusta of 64 and Merlin of 18 Guns, have, I dare say, been fully related to you, which renders it unnecessary for one to dwell on it. They are using every effort for the reduction of Fort Mifflin and we, under our present circumstances, to save it. The event is left to Heaven.
With compliments to Mrs. Nelson, Mr. Secretary, &c.
I am &c.
TO COL. THEODORICK BLAND.
Headquarters, 8 November, 1777.
I have received your favor mentioning the very strong reasons you have for quitting the service, or at least obtaining leave of absence for the settlement of your affairs, which you say, and I make no doubt, are in a situation that demands your presence.
As the contest, in which we all saw the necessity of stepping forth still remains undetermined, and the event of war doubtful and uncertain, I conceive that the same motives which first called us out, now plead in the most pressing terms for our perseverance to that happy period, in which our united efforts shall effect that great design, for the accomplishment of which we were first induced to sacrifice the happiness of domestic life.
I believe the private concerns of every officer in the army will suffer in a greater or less degree by his absence, which must have been expected as a matter of course, at their first acceptance of their commissions.
As to the strictness of honor and integrity with which you have conducted yourself (having never heard the least suggestion to the contrary) I think it unnecessary to say anything on that head.
I have always endeavored to give every indulgence to officers which I thought consistent with my duty and the good of the service. In this instance I think matters had best be deferred to the close of the campaign, when your request can in either way be answered with greater propriety and precision. I am &c.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL CONWAY.
9 November, 1777.
A letter, which I received last night, contained the following paragraph.
“In a letter from General Conway to General Gates he says, ‘Heaven has been determined to save your country, or a weak General and bad counsellors would have ruined it.’ ” I am, Sir, your humble servant.1
TO HENRY LAURENS, PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.2
Camp, atWhitemarsh, 10 November, 1777.
I have been duly honored with your favors of the 4th and 5th instant, with their several enclosures. Among those of the former, I found the resolution you are pleased to allude to, respecting your appointment as president. Permit me, Sir, to congratulate you upon this event, and to assure you I have the most entire confidence, that I shall experience in you during your presidency the same politeness, and attention to the interests of the States, that marked the conduct of your worthy predecessor.
With respect to the views of the Navy Board for securing the frigates, the situation of the army would not admit of a compliance with them, supposing they would answer the end. I have therefore written to the Board, in the most pressing terms, to have the frigates scuttled in such a way, that they may be raised when it shall be necessary, and that in the mean time they may not be liable to injury from floating ice. I see no measure so likely to secure ’em to us, and against the enemy’s attempts. I have been extremely fearful they would have possessed and employed them, with the Delaware and their batteries, on the rear of the galleys and the fort, while the ships below attacked in front. I need not point out the probable consequences of such an event; they are too obvious. The resolves, which you request to be communicated to the army, shall be published in general orders.1 The letters for Commodore Hazelwood &c. have been put in a proper channel of conveyance.
As to the disposition of part of the northern army, my letter of the 1st contains my ideas upon the subject, and those of my general officers. I shall be sorry if the measures I have taken on this head should interfere with, or materially vary from, any plans Congress might have had in view. Their proceedings of the 5th, I presume, were founded on a supposition, that the enemy were still up the North River, and garrisoning the forts they had taken. This not being the case, and all accounts agreeing that reinforcements to General Howe are coming from York, I hope the aids I have required will be considered expedient and proper. Independent of the latter consideration, I think our exertions and force should be directed to effect General Howe’s destruction, if it is possible.2
Among the various difficulties attending the army, the adjustment of rank is not the least. This, owing to the several modes, the several principles, that have prevailed in granting commissions, is involved in great perplexity. The officers of the Pennsylvania troops are in much confusion about it. In many instances, those who were junior in rank, from local and other circumstances, have obtained commissions older in date than those which were granted afterwards to officers, their superiors before. This, with many other irregularities, has been and is the cause of great uneasiness; and, though precedency of rank so claimed should not be supported in justice or upon any principle, we find all, having the least pretext for the title, strenuous to support it, and willing to hold a superiority. I was therefore induced to order a board of officers to take the matter under consideration. The result, respecting the field officers of this State, I now enclose, and wish Congress to adopt the regulation, which the Board have made, and to transmit me, by the earliest opportunity, commissions dated according to their arrangement. At the same time it may be proper, that there should be a resolve vacating the commissions they now have, and directing them to be delivered to me. Their attention to this business, I trust, will be immediate; the disputes and jealousies with the officers require it.
I have enclosed the memorial of Colonel Duportail and the other engineers for their promotion, referred to me by the Board of War for my sentiments. As to the terms these gentlemen mentioned to have been proposed and agreed to when they first arrived, I know nothing of them further than the memorial states. In respect to their abilities and knowledge in their profession, I must observe they have had no great opportunity of proving them since they were in our service. However, I have reason to believe, that they have been regularly bred in this important branch of war, and that their talents, which have been hitherto, as it were, dormant, want only a proper occasion to call them forth; in which case, I have no doubt they would do themselves honor, and the States essential service. It is of great importance, too, to consider the practicability of replacing these gentlemen with persons equally qualified, if they should quit the service; and how indispensable men of skill in this branch of military science are to every army. While I am on this subject, I would take the liberty to mention, that I have been well informed, that the engineer in the northern army (Kosciuszko I think his name is) is a gentleman of science and merit. From the character I have had of him, he is deserving of notice too.1
I would beg leave to mention, that we are in great distress for want of money. This will be more urgent every day; and it is probable there will be a good deal of pay due the troops coming to reinforce us. General Putnam writes pressingly for a supply, and says, he is in a most disagreeable situation for want of it. I must request the attention of Congress to this subject.
Your favor of the 7th came to hand this morning. I shall pay proper attention to the enclosures. The rank of the officers of cavalry I will attempt to have settled as soon as circumstances will admit. I have nothing very interesting to communicate. The enemy have lost one of their new floating batteries; it sunk in a little time after it was launched. There has been a cannonade to-day; it still continues. I do not know the occasion, but imagine that it is between the ships and galleys. I have, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Camp nearWhitemarsh, 11 November, 1777.
The condition of the army for want of Cloaths and Blankets and the little prospect we have of obtaining relief according to the information I have received from the Board of War, occasion me to trouble you at this time. The mode of seizing and forcing supplies from the Inhabitants, I fear would prove very inadequate to the demands, while it would certainly imbitter the minds of the People, and excite perhaps a hurtful jealousy against the Army. I have had officers out for the purpose of purchasing and making voluntary collections of necessaries and in a few instances more coercive measures have been exercised. But all these have proved of little avail. Our distresses still continue, and are becoming greater. I would therefore humbly submit it to the consideration of Congress whether it may not be expedient for them to address the several Legislative and executive Powers of the States, on this subject, as early as possible, and in the most urgent terms. It appears to me, if they were to appoint under the authority of Congress proper active agents, that many necessaries might be procured in addition to those employed on Public Acct. Besides this, I think, the exigency of our affairs requires, that they should resolve on an immediate assessment to be made on the Inhabitants. If these modes were adopted considerable aids might be derived, and in a way much less exceptionable than that of seizing by the Army. The Assemblies in many States, I believe are now sitting, and I have no doubt upon a requisition by Congress, but they will give attention to the measure.1
Inclosed you will receive a Copy of a Letter from Genl. Putnam, which came to hand to-day. You will find his and Governor Clinton’s opinion respecting the Fortifications necessary to be made for the security of the North River. As soon as I heard, that Warner’s Militia were coming down to reinforce me I immediately wrote to countermand them, and directed that they should be retained to carry on the necessary works during the time they are to serve. My Letter on this subject was on the 9th Instant. As to the other Troops, the propriety of bringing them here, I believe is not to be questioned.—We are told through various channels that Sir Henry Clinton is coming round with all the force that can be possibly spared from New York, and it is said that those on Staten Island are withdrawn. It is added also that the Inhabitants of the former are greatly alarmed and disgusted, and that Genl. Tryon is calling on the Militia of Long Island for the defence of the city. Genl. Putnam’s Letter will also evince the necessity there is for a large and immediate supply of money being sent to the Paymaster General.
I have also the Honor to transmit you a Copy of a report by a Board of Genl. Officers on the subject of Rations which I submit to the consideration of Congress—The establishment and Regulations, which they propose, appear to me to be just and necessary, supposing the Commissary’s estimate to be right, which I presume is the case from the exorbitant price which has been & is now paid for every species of Provision. The necessity of an alteration in the former value has been long urged by many officers—and for want of it several, I believe, have left the service.
I have, &c.
P. S. By advices just received, thirty-eight transports have arrived in the Delaware with troops. They were as high up as Reedy Island yesterday. I suppose they are from New York.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL VARNUM.
Headquarters, 12 November, 1777,
Since I wrote to you at one o’clock this day,1 yours dated twelve last night came to hand. This has occasioned an alteration in the Sentiments of myself and the Council who find it impossible, from your representations, to give timely relief to the Fort. We therefore are now of opinion, that the Cannon and Stores ought immediately to be removed and every thing put into a disposition to remove totally at a moment’s warning; but as every day that we can hold even the Island is so much time gained, I would recommend a party to be left, who might find good shelter behind the ruined works, and when they abandon, they should set fire to the Barracks and all remaining buildings. If this was done upon a flood tide, the Enemy could not come out of Schuylkill with Boats to put the fire out, or to interrupt the passage at the Garrison. If what works remain could be blown up or other ways effectually destroyed before evacuation, it would take the Enemy so much more time and labor to make a lodgement upon the Island. Be pleased to communicate this to Col. Smith and let him know I recd. his of yesterday. I hope his wound is not dangerous.1 I am, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
Head-Quarters, 13 November, 1777.
In my letter of the 5th in answer to yours of the 22d ultimo I mentioned, that it was not our interest to expedite the passage of the prisoners to England. Upon a review of the matter, I am more and more convinced of the propriety of the observation. The most scrupulous adherence, on the part of the enemy, to the convention of Saratoga will justify their placing the prisoners in garrisons, as soon as they arrive in Britain, and will enable the ministry to send out an equal number of troops to reinforce General Howe, or upon any other service against these States. This being the case, policy and a regard to our own interest are strongly opposed to our adopting or pursuing any measures, to facilitate their embarkation and passage home, which are not required of us by the capitulation. If by our exertions these ends are promoted, our generosity will be rewarded, in the arrival of as large a force by the end of March, or early in April, for the purposes suggested above.
These considerations lead me to observe, that it is extremely probable General Burgoyne will apply to you, or perhaps to the council of the State, to dispense with the articles of convention, so far as they respect the port for their embarkation, and to change it from Boston to some place in Rhode Island or in the Sound. I know he has received a hint upon the subject from General Howe. Should such a requisition be made, it ought not to be complied with upon any principles whatever. It cannot be asked as a matter of right, because by the articles Boston is assigned as the port. It should not be granted as a matter of favor, because the indulgence will be attended with most obvious and capital disadvantages to us. Besides the delay, which will necessarily arise from confining them to Boston, as the place of departure, their transports in a voyage round at this season may probably suffer considerable injury, and many of them may be blown as far as the West Indies. These considerations, and others needless to be added, have struck me in so important a point of view, that I have thought it expedient to write to you by express. Captn. Vallancey, who came with General Burgoyne’s despatches, left this on his return yesterday morning, and I make no doubt, in a little time after his arrival, General Burgoyne will request the port of embarkation to be altered. Independent of the impolicy of granting the requisition, it appears to me, that none have authority to do it but Congress themselves. I am, dear Sir, with great respect, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR HENRY.
Whitemarsh, 13 November, 1777.
I shall beg leave to refer you to a letter of mine, which accompanies this, and of the same date, for a general account of our situation and wants. The design of this is only to inform you, and with great truth I can do it, strange as it may seem, that the army which I have had under my immediate command, has not, at any one time since General Howe’s landing at the Head of Elk, been equal in point of numbers to his. In ascertaining this, I do not confine myself to Continental troops, but comprehend militia.
The disaffected and lukewarm in this State, in whom unhappily it too much abounds, taking advantage of the distraction in the government, prevented those vigorous exertions, which an invaded State ought to have yielded; and the short term, for which their militia was drawn out, expiring before others could be got in, and before the Maryland militia (which, by the by, were few in number, and did not join till after the battle of Brandywine,) came up, our numbers kept nearly at a stand, and I was left to fight two battles, in order if possible to save Philadelphia, with less numbers than composed the army of my antagonist, whilst the world has given us at least double. This impression, though mortifying in some points of view, I have been obliged to encourage, because, next to being strong, it is best to be thought so by the enemy; and to this cause principally I think is to be attributed the slow movements of General Howe.
How different the case in the northern department! There the States of New York and New England, resolving to crush Burgoyne, continued pouring in their troops, till the surrender of that army; at which time not less than fourteen thousand militia, as I have been informed, were actually in General Gates’s camp, and those composed, for the most part, of the best yeomanry in the country, well armed, and in many instances supplied with provisions of their own carrying. Had the same spirit pervaded the people of this and the neighboring States, we might before this time have had General Howe nearly in the situation of General Burgoyne, with this difference, that the former would never have been out of reach of his ships, whilst the latter increased his danger every step he took, having but one retreat in case of a disaster, and that blocked up by a respectable force.
My own difficulties, in the course of the campaign, have been not a little increased by the extra aid of Continental troops, which the gloomy prospect of our affairs in the north, immediately after the reduction of Ticonderoga, induced me to spare from this army. But it is to be hoped, that all will yet end well. If the cause is advanced, indifferent is it to me where or in what quarter it happens. The winter season, with the aid of our neighbors, may possibly bring some important event to pass.
I am, sincerely and respectfully, dear Sir, &c.
TO SIR WILLIAM HOWE.
Head-Quarters, 14 November, 1777.
I am sorry to find, by the tenor of your letter of the 6th instant, that we still unhappily differ in our ideas of those just and reasonable terms, upon which a general exchange of prisoners might take place, and that an event so desirable is probably yet at a distance. This being the case, that relief to the unhappy, where it is practicable, may no longer be delayed, I am induced to accede to your proposition, made through Lieutenant-Colonel Frazer, “that the officers, who are prisoners of war, on both sides should be released, and have liberty to return among their friends on parole.” I shall expect your answer as soon as possible upon this subject; after which I shall give immediately the necessary orders for the return of your officers to such places as you appoint. At the same time, I wish that their exchange may appear to you, as it does to me, the more eligible mode of release. Notwithstanding what I have said, if the interpretation I have given your letter does not correspond with your own meaning, and you are disposed to proceed to an exchange of all the prisoners in your possession, for an equal number of those in my hands, without regard to the dispute subsisting between us, I shall be happy to adopt the measure. I therefore request an explanation of the third paragraph of your letter, where you say,—“Those at present prisoners with me are ready to be delivered on the shortest notice, and it rests solely with you to justify me in doing it.”
In respect to the charge against Mr. Boudinot, the enclosed paper will show he has not failed to represent to Mr. Loring the wants of the prisoners in our hands. That these may be supplied, I shall upon your application grant passports to such persons, not above the rank of regimental quartermasters, as you may send out with necessaries for them.
You call upon me to redress the grievances of several of your officers and men, who, you are pleased to say, “you are well informed are most injuriously and unjustifiably loaded with irons.” If there is a single instance of a prisoner of war being in irons, I am ignorant of it; nor can I find on the most minute inquiry, that there is the least foundation for the charge. On the contrary, I have every reason to believe, that your officers and men, who are prisoners with us, are experiencing a very different treatment. I wish you to particularize the cases you allude to, that relief may be had, if the complaints are well founded, and the character and conduct of the persons shall not forbid it.
Now we are upon the subject of grievances, I am constrained to observe, that I have a variety of accounts, not only from prisoners who have made their escape, but from persons who have left Philadelphia, that our private soldiers in your hands are treated in a manner shocking to humanity, and that many of them must have perished through hunger, had it not been for the charitable contributions of the inhabitants. It is added in aggravation, that this treatment is to oblige them to enlist in the corps you are raising. The friends of these unhappy men call daily upon me for their relief, and the people at large insist on retaliating upon those in our possession. Justice demands it. However, before I could proceed to a measure my feelings recoil at, I thought it right to mention the facts to you; and I would propose, that I may be allowed to send a suitable person into the city under the usual restrictions, to examine into the truth of them.
I must also remonstrate against the maltreatment and confinement of our officers. This, I am informed, is not only the case of those in Philadelphia, but of many in New York. Whatever plausible pretences may be urged to authorize the condition of the former, it is certain but few circumstances can arise to justify that of the latter. I appeal to you to redress these several wrongs; and you will remember, whatever hardships the prisoners with us may be subjected to will be chargeable on you. At the same time it is but justice to observe, that many of the cruelties exercised towards prisoners are said to proceed from the inhumanity of Mr. Cunningham, provost-martial, without your knowledge or approbation. I am, Sir, with due respect, &c.
P. S. Just as I was about to close my letter, two persons, men of reputation, came from Philadelphia. I transmit to you their depositions respecting the treatment they received while they were your prisoners. I will not comment upon the subject. It is too painful.
TO JOHN PARKE CUSTIS.
White Marsh, 12 Miles fromPhiladelphia,
Your letter of the twenty sixth ultimo came to my hands in due course of post. I observe what you say respecting the renting of Claiborne’s. It is not my wish to let it for any longer term than your mamma inclines to, and at no rate, for her life, unless it is perfectly agreeable to her. This I did conceive would have been the case (as I think she informed me) to you; but if it is not, I am equally well pleased. I am very well convinced that I can, when time will permit me to attend to my own business, readily rent the place for my own interest in it, as there are many that wish for it. If there is but tolerable good grounds to suspect that the distemper will get among my cattle at Claiborne’s, I shall be glad if you would desire Mr. Hill, when you next write to him, to dispose of them if he can (provided he also coincides with you in opinion).
It is much to be wished that a remedy could be applied to the depreciation of our currency. I know of no person better qualified to do this than Colonel Mason, and shall be very happy to hear that he has taken it in hand. Long have I been persuaded of the indispensable necessity of a tax for the purpose of sinking the paper money, and why it has been delayed better politicians than I must account for. What plan Colonel Mason may have in contemplation for filling up the Virginia regiments I know not, but certain I am that this is a measure that can not be dispensed with, nor ought not under any pretext whatsoever. I hope Colonel Mason’s health will admit his attendance on the Assembly, and no other plea should be offered, much less received by his constituents.
It is perfectly agreeable, too, that Colonel Baylor should share part of the privateer. I have spoken to him on the subject; he still continues in the same mind, and will write to you on the subject. I shall therefore consider myself as possessing one fourth of your full share, and that yourself, Baylor, L. Washington, and I are equally concerned in the share you at first held.
The only articles of intelligence worth communicating I have written to your mamma, and refer you to that letter. We have an account, indeed, which seems to gain credit, that Weeks, with a squadron of ships fitted out of the French ports, under continental colors, had taken fifty three homeward bound West Indiamen (chiefly from Jamaica) in the English channel; that Lord Stormont was recalled from the court of France; and war expected every moment between France and Britain. God send it.
Give my love to Nelly, and be assured that with sincere regard I remain, dear Sir, your most affectionate.
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON.
Headquarters, 15 November, 1777.
I have duly received your several favors from the time you left me to that of the 12th inst. I approve entirely of all the steps you have taken, and have only to wish that the exertions of those you have had to deal with, had kept pace with your zeal and good intentions. I hope your health will before this have permitted you to push on the rear of the whole reinforcement beyond New Windsor. Some of the enemy’s ships have arriv’d in the Delaware, but how many have troops on board I cannot exactly ascertain. The enemy have lately damaged Fort Mifflin considerably, but our people keep possession and seem determined to do so to the last extremity. Our loss in men has been but small, Capt. Treat is unfortunately among the killed. I wish you a safe return.
TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL CONWAY.
Head-Quarters, 16 November, 1777.
In answer to your favor of this date, it remains with Congress alone to accept your resignation. This being the case, I cannot permit you to leave the army, till you have obtained their consent. When that is done, I shall not object to your departure, since it is your inclination. I thank you much for your wishes for the liberty of America, and the success of our arms, and have only to add, that, in case you are permitted to return by Congress, you will have my hopes for a favorable passage, and a happy meeting with your family and friends. I am, Sir, &c.1
TO MAJOR-GENERAL ST. CLAIR, MAJOR-GENERAL BARON DE KALB, AND BRIGADIER-GENERAL KNOX.
You are to proceed with all convenient expedition to Fort Mercer, where by conferring with Brigadier General Varnum, Commodore Hazelwood and such other officers as you may think proper to consult—and from your own view of the ground and River, you will investigate the following Points.
1. The Practicability of hindering the Enemy from clearing the main Channel of the Chevaux de frise which now obstructs it—without having possession of Mud Island.
2. What farther aid would be required from this Army to effect the purpose above mentioned, supposing it practicable, and how should such aid be disposed—
3. Whether our Fleet will be able to keep the River, in case the Enemy make a lodgement, and establish Batteries on Mud Island.
4. Supposing the Fleet necessitated to retire, whether the Land force could maintain its present Position independently of it.
5. Whether it be practicable to take or drive away the Enemy’s Floating Battery, and if either can be done, whether an obstruction may not be laid in the Channel through which she passed, so as to prevent the Passage of any vessel in future.
6. If the Fleet should be obliged to retire and Fort Mercer be invested by the Enemy, by what means could the Garrison be drawn off, or reinforced if either should be judged necessary—You will be particular in making my acknowledgements to those officers and men who have distinguished themselves in the defense of the Fort and assuring them that I have a high Sense of their gallant Conduct.
This is by no means to be understood, Gentlemen, as restraining you to the examination only of the particular points enumerated, which are intended as a memorandum—but you will in conjunction with the Commanding officers on the spot, make every such arrangement and alteration as shall appear essential—Given at headquarters, 17 November, 1777.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters,Whitemarsh, 17 November, 1777.
I am sorry to inform you that Fort Mifflin was evacuated the night before last, after a defence which does credit to the American arms, and will ever reflect the highest honor upon the officers and men of the garrison. The works were entirely beat down; every piece of cannon dismounted, and one of the enemy’s ships so near, that she threw grenades into the fort, and killed men upon the platforms, from her tops, before they quitted the Island. This ship had been cut down for the purpose, and so constructed that she made but a small draft of water, and by these means warped in between Fort Mifflin and the Province Island. Some complaints are made, that the captains of the galleys did not sufficiently exert themselves to drive this vessel from her station; but I shall not determine any thing upon the matter till a proper inquiry is made.
Nothing in the course of this campaign has taken up so much of the attention and consideration of myself and all the general officers, as the possibility of giving a further relief to Fort Mifflin, than what we had already afforded. Such a garrison was thrown into it, as has been found by experience capable of defending it to the last extremity; and Red Bank, which was deemed essentially necessary, not only for the purpose of keeping open the communication, but of annoying the enemy’s ships and covering our own fleet, has been possessed by a considerable detachment from this army. The only remaining and practicable mode of giving relief to the fort was by dislodging the enemy from Province Island, from whence they kept up an incessant fire. But this, from the situation of the ground, was not to be attempted with any degree of safety to the attacking party, unless the whole or a considerable part of the army should be removed to the west side of Schuylkill to support and cover it.
To account for this, you must be made acquainted with the nature of the ground. In order to have made the attack upon Province Island, the party destined for that service, which would have been at least fifteen hundred, must have marched down the Chester road as far as the Bell Inn near Derby, and thence, turning towards Delaware, must have proceeded about four miles further through a neck of land to the Island. The enemy have a bridge at the Middle Ferry upon the Schuylkill, which is but four miles from the Bell Inn; consequently, by throwing a body of men over that bridge upon the first discovery of our design, and marching down to the Bell, they would have effectually cut off our detachment upon their return. It is true, the covering party might have consisted of a less number than the whole army; but then those remaining upon this side of the river would have been too few to have been intrusted with all the artillery and stores of the army, within twelve miles of the enemy.
There were many and very forcible reasons against a total remove to the west side of Schuylkill. Leaving all our stores at Easton, Bethlehem, and Allen-town uncovered, and abandoning several of our hospitals within reach of the enemy, first presented themselves. Another, and in my opinion a more weighty reason than either of the preceding, was the importance of supporting the post at Red Bank, upon which that at Fort Mifflin in a great measure depended, as through it we sent in supplies of men, provisions, and ammunition. The enemy, sensible of this, endeavored to dislodge us from Red Bank on the 22d last month; which, as Congress have been informed, cost them four hundred men.
Now had our army been up on the west side of the Schuylkill, they might, without any danger of an attack upon their lines, have thrown over so considerable a force into Jersey, that they might have overpowered the garrison, and, by making themselves masters of it, have reduced Fort Mifflin by famine or want of ammunition. Thus we should in all probability have lost both posts by one stroke. They might also, by taking possession of the fords upon Schuylkill, have rendered the junction of our northern reinforcements with us a very difficult, if not an impracticable matter; and, should any accident have happened to them, we should have stood a very poor chance of looking General Howe in the face through the winter, with an inferior army. We should finally have thrown the army into such a situation, that we must inevitably have drawn on a general engagement before our reinforcements arrived; which, considering our disparity of numbers, would probably have ended with the most disagreeable consequences.
It was therefore determined a few days ago to wait the arrival of the reinforcement from the northward, before any alteration could safely be made in the disposition of the army; and I was not without hopes, that the fort would have held out till that time. That we might then have moved without endangering the stores, I had given orders for the removal of them, from the places before mentioned, to Lebanon and other places in Lancaster county, which is at any rate more safe and convenient than where they were.
As the keeping possession of Red Bank, and thereby still preventing the enemy from weighing the chevaux-de-frise before the frost obliges their ships to quit the river, has become a matter of the greatest importance, I have determined to send down General St. Clair, General Knox, and Baron Kalb, to take a view of the ground, and to endeavor to form a judgment of the most probable means of securing it. They will at the same time see how far it is possible for our fleet to keep their station since the loss of Fort Mifflin, and also make the proper inquiry into the conduct of the captains of the galleys mentioned in the former part of this letter.1
I am informed that it is a matter of amazement, and that reflections have been thrown out against this army, for not being more active and enterprising than, in the opinion of some, they ought to have been. If the charge is just, the best way to account for it will be to refer you to the returns of our strength, and those which I can produce of the enemy, and to the enclosed abstract of the clothing now actually wanting for the army; and then I think the wonder will be, how they keep the field at all in tents at this season of the year. What stock the clothier-general has to supply this demand, or what are his prospects, he himself will inform you, as I have directed him to go to York Town to lay these matters before Congress. There are, besides, most of those in the hospitals more bare than those in the field; many remain there for want of clothes only.
Several general officers, unable to procure clothing in the common line, have employed agents to purchase up what could be found in different parts of the country. General Wayne, among others, has employed Mr. Zantzinger of Lancaster, who has purchased to the amount of four thousand five hundred pounds, for which he desires a draft upon the Treasury Board. Enclosed you have a copy of his letter. I am not clear whether this application should properly be made to the treasury, or the clothier-general, who should charge the money to the regiments for whom the clothes are, as so much advanced to them. If the latter should appear the most proper mode, I will order it to be done. I am anxiously waiting the arrival of the troops from the northward, who ought, from the time they have had my orders, to have been here before this. Colonel Hamilton, one of my aids, is up the North River, doing all he can to push them forward; but he writes me word, that he finds many unaccountable delays thrown in his way. However, I am in hopes that many days will not elapse before a brigade or two at least will arrive. The want of these troops has embarrassed all my measures exceedingly.
18th. Your despatches of the 13th & 14th have this moment come to hand, they shall be attended to and answered in my next. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE, IN CONGRESS.
Whitemarsh, 18 November, 1777.
Your favor of the 7th instant should not have remained so long unanswered, but for the uncertainty of Colonel Pickering’s acceptance of his new appointment. He has now determined to do this, which leads me to say, that I am really at a loss to recommend a proper person as a successor to the office of adjutant-general. The gentleman I named to you some time ago, will not you say answer. I knew but little of him myself, but I understood he was well acquainted with the duty, having served much to the satisfaction of General Montgomery (a good judge) in Canada, during his long and severe campaign in 1775.
That I might know the sense of the general officers upon this point of so much importance, that is, whether any of them were acquainted with a person qualified for the discharge of the important duties of this office, I asked them collectively; but they either were not acquainted with a proper person, or did not incline to recommend any one. Colonel Lee, who was formerly recommended by Congress to fill this office, Colonel Wilkinson, Major Scull, and Colonel Innes were separately spoken of. The first is an active, spirited man, a good disciplinarian, and being, as he was, disappointed before by Colonel Pickering’s unexpected acceptance of the office, may possibly look for it now. He writes a good hand, but how correctly, or with what ease, I cannot undertake to say, having had no opportunity of judging. The next gentleman, Wilkinson, I can say less of, because he has served for the most part in the northern department. General Gates I understand speaks highly of him. He is I believe a good grammatical scholar, but how diligent I know not. The next, Scull, is a young man, but an old officer, and very highly spoken of, for his knowledge of service, strictness of discipline, diligence, and correctness. He early was brigade-major to General Thompson. The last, Innes, I know nothing of, than his being a man of spirit, good sense, and education, and recommended by General Woodford. Thus, Sir, have I, without the least view to serve an individual, given you the name of every one that has been mentioned to me, and the characters of them respectively, as far as they have been delineated.
It is a matter of no small moment to the well-being of an army, that the several departments of it should be filled by men of ability, integrity, and application; and much therefore is it to be wished, that you may be fortunate in your choice of adjutant and quartermaster generals to this army. Wadsworth has the reputation of being clever at business. In the commissary’s department he was found active and understanding; but how far he may be qualified for the chief management of so extensive a department as that of quartermaster-general, I know not. Experience has already evinced in the commissarial line a change which has embarrassed the movements of this army exceedingly. I will not charge it to the measure, nor the men, but to the time it happened. This however with truth I can say, that we seldom have more than a day or two’s provisions beforehand; and often as much behind, both of meat and bread. It can be no difficult matter, therefore, under these circumstances, for you or any other gentleman to conceive how much the movements of an army are clogged and retarded. And now, whilst I am upon this subject, let me add, that I am well convinced that the salt provisions necessary for next year, and which, (for want of salt,) can only be had to the eastward, will not be provided, as the season is now far advanced, and I have heard of no proper measures being taken to lay them in.
Have you any late advices from Europe? Is there any good grounds for the report of Russians coming out?1 And is there any expectation of a war between France and Great Britain? If these are questions, which can be answered with propriety, I shall be glad of a solution of them, and am, with sincere regard, dear Sir, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
I am favored with yours of the 14th. I could have wished that the regiments I had ordered had come on, because I do not like brigades to be broke by detachment. The urgency of Colonel Hamilton’s letter was owing to his knowledge of our wants in this quarter, and to a certainty that there was no danger to be apprehended from New York, if you sent away all the Continental troops that were then with you, and waited to replace them by those expected down the river. I cannot but say there has been more delay in the march of the troops, than I think necessary; and I could wish that in future my orders may be immediately complied with, without arguing upon the propriety of them. If any accident ensues from obeying them, the fault will lie upon me and not upon you. I have yet heard nothing of Poor’s or Patterson’s Brigades—or of Colo. Chas. Webb’s Regiment. Scannell’s Brigade will be at Coryells ferry tonight or tomorrow and Lee’s & Jackson’s Regiments arrived here this day. Be pleased to inform me particularly of the corps, that have marched and are to march, and by what routes they are directed, that I may know how to despatch orders to meet them upon the road if necessary. I am, &c.1
TO THE OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS OF THE MILITIA IN THE COUNTIES OF HUNTERDON, BURLINGTON, GLOUCESTER, SALEM, AND CUMBERLAND.
20 November, 1777.
Friends and Fellow Soldiers:
The Enemy have thrown considerable force into your State with intent to possess themselves of the post at Red Bank and after clearing the obstructions in the Delaware make incursions into your country.—To prevent them from effecting either of these purposes I have sent over a number of Continental Troops as I trust will, with the spirited operations of the militia totally defeat their designs and oblige them to return to the City and suburbs of Philadelphia which is the only ground they possess on the Pennsylvania Shore, in which they cannot subsist cut off from the supplies of the plentiful State of New Jersey. I therefore call upon you, by all that you hold dear to rise up as one man and rid your country of its unjust invaders. To convince you that is to be done by a general appearance of all its freemen armed and ready to give their opposition, I need only to put you in mind of the effect it had upon the British Army in June last, who laid aside their intention of marching through the upper part of your State upon seeing the hostile manner in which you were prepared to receive them. Look also at the glorious effects which followed the spirit of the union which appeared among our brethren of New York and New England, who, by the brave assistance they afforded the Continental Army obliged a royal one, flushed with their former victories to sue for terms and lay down their arms in the most submissive manner.
Reflect upon these things, and I am convinced that every man who can bear a musket will take it up and without respect to time or place give his services in the field for a few weeks, perhaps only a few days. I am your sincere friend and countryman.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have been duly honored with your favors of the 13th and 19th instant, with their enclosures. I am well assured Congress have not been inattentive to the necessities of the army; and that the deficiency in our supplies, particularly in the article of clothing, has arisen from the difficulty of importing, on account of the numerous fleets that line our coast. However, I am persuaded that considerable relief might be drawn from the different States, were they to exert themselves properly. This I hope will be the case, as soon as they receive the pressing recommendations of Congress upon the subject.
It has been the unvaried custom of the enemy, from the commencement of the present contest, to try every artifice and device to delude the people. The message through John Brown was calculated for this end.1 I am surprised Mr. Willing should suffer himself to be imposed on by such flimsy measures. He knows that there is a plain, obvious way for General and Lord Howe to communicate any proposals they wish to make to Congress, without the intervention of a second and third hand. But this would not suit their views. I am sorry that Mr. Brown should have been the bearer of the message; as, from the character I have had of him, he is a worthy, well-disposed man. It has been frequently mentioned, that he had interested himself much in behalf of our prisoners, and had afforded them every relief and comfort his circumstances would allow him to give.
I have been endeavoring to effect an exchange of prisoners, upon principles of justice, and from motives of humanity; but at present I have no prospect of it. Yet General Howe has assured our officers it was his wish, and, if it could not be done, that he should readily agree to their release on parole. The enclosed copies of my letters and his answer will show Congress what has passed between us upon that subject; and, at the same time, that I had remonstrated against the severe and cruel treatment of the prisoners, and proposed the plan of sending in a suitable person to inquire into the facts, before the receipt of their resolution. Their sufferings, I am persuaded, have been great, and shocking to humanity. I have called upon General Howe for redress, and an explicit answer to my letter of the 14th. If I do not receive one by to-morrow night, with the most positive and satisfactory assurances that a proper conduct shall be observed towards them in future, we must retaliate, however much we wish to avoid severity, and measures that bear the smallest appearance of rigor or inhumanity.
Enclosed you will receive a list of sundry officers, who have been cashiered since the action of the 4th ultimo. I flatter myself, that these examples will involve many favorable and beneficial consequences. Besides these, there were many more brought to trial, who were acquitted; among them, General Maxwell and General Wayne, the former for charges against him while he commanded the light troops, the latter for charges against his conduct in the attack made on his division in the night of the 20th of September. The result of the court of inquiry against General Wayne not entirely exempting him from censure in his own opinion, he requested a court-martial; and, upon a full and minute investigation of the charges against him, he was honorably acquitted, and in terms of high respect.
I am sorry to inform Congress, that the enemy are now in possession of all the water defences. Fort Mifflin and that at Red Bank mutually depended on each other for support; and the reduction of the former made the tenure of the latter extremely precarious, if not impracticable. After the loss of Fort Mifflin, it was found Red Bank could derive no advantages from the galleys and armed vessels; (they could not maintain their station;) and, in case of investiture, the garrison could have no supplies, no retreat, nor any hope of relief, but such as might arise from a superior force acting without on the rear of the enemy, and dislodging them. Under these circumstances, the garrison was obliged to evacuate it on the night of the 20th instant, on the approach of Lord Cornwallis, who had crossed the river from Chester with a detachment, supposed to be about two thousand men, and formed a junction with the troops lately arrived from New York, and those that had been landed before at Billingsport.
From General Varnum’s account, I have reason to hope that we saved most of the stores, except a few heavy cannon; however, I cannot be particular in this instance. I am also to add, from the intelligence I have received, that most if not all the armed vessels have been burned by our own people, except the galleys, one brig, and two sloops, which are said to have run by the city. How far this might be founded in necessity, I am not able to determine; but I suppose it was done under that idea, and an apprehension of their falling into the enemy’s hands if they attempted to pass up the river.
Upon the first information I had of Lord Cornwallis’s movement, I detached General Huntington’s brigade to join General Varnum, and, as soon as possible, General Greene with his division; hoping that these, with Glover’s brigade, which was on the march through Jersey, and which I directed to file off to the left for the same purpose, and with such militia as could be collected, would be able to defeat the enemy’s design, and preserve the fort. But they were so rapid in their advances, that our troops could not form a junction and arrive in time to succor the garrison; which obliged them to withdraw. General Greene is still in Jersey; and, when Glover’s brigade joins him, if an attack can be made on Lord Cornwallis with a prospect of success, I am persuaded it will be done. About a hundred and seventy of Morgan’s corps are also gone to reinforce him.1 Generals Poor and Paterson, with their brigades, and Colonel Bailey with Learned’s, are now in camp. The last arrived on Friday evening, the other two in the course of yesterday. I have not yet obtained returns of their strength; but, from the accounts of the officers, they will amount in the whole to twenty-three or twenty-four hundred rank and file. But I find many of them are very deficient in the articles of shoes, stockings, breeches, and blankets. Besides these, about three hundred and fifty men, detachments from Lee’s, Jackson’s, and Henley’s regiments, have joined me. Yesterday evening the enemy burned several houses in the neighborhood of Philadelphia, and they have committed the most wanton spoil in many others. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
26 November, 1777.
My letter of yesternight (wrote after I returned from a view of the enemy’s lines from the other side Schuylkill) I must refer to. Our situation, as you justly observe, is distressing from a variety of irremediable causes, but more especially from the impracticability of answering the expectations of the world without running hazards which no military principles can justify, and which, in case of failure, might prove the ruin of our cause; patience, and a steady perseverance in such measures as appear warranted by sound reason and policy, must support us under the censure of the one, and dictate a proper line of conduct for the attainment of the other; that is the great object in view. This, as it ever has, will I think, ever remain the first wish of my heart, however I may mistake the means of accomplishment; that your views are the same, and that your endeavors have pointed to the same end, I am perfectly satisfied of, although you seem to have imbibed a suspicion which I never entertained.
I can foresee inconveniences, I can foresee losses, and I dare say I may add that I can foresee much dissatisfaction that will arise from the withdrawing the Continental troops from the Jerseys. But how is it to be avoided? We cannot be divided when the enemy are collected. The evils which I apprehended from throwing troops into the Jerseys now stare me more forcibly in the face, and a day or two, if you cannot join us in that time, may realize them; for my mind scarce entertains a doubt but that General Howe is collecting his whole force with a view to pushing at this army. This, especially under the information you have received of Lord Cornwallis’s recrossing the Delaware, induces me to press despatch upon you, that our junction may be formed as speedily as possible, and the consequences of a division avoided.
The current sentiment, as far as I can collect it, is in favor of our taking post the other side Schuylkill; in this case the Jerseys will be left totally uncovered; consequently all the craft in the river, with their rigging, guns, &c.; the hospitals on that side of the river, the magazines of provisions which the commissaries are establishing in the upper part of Jersey, &c. Think, therefore, I beseech you, of all these things, and prepare yourself by reflection and observation (being on the spot) to give me your advice on these several matters. The boats (those belonging to the public, and built for the purpose of transporting troops, &c. across the river) ought in my judgment to be removed, as soon as they have served your present calls, up to Coryell’s Ferry at least, if not higher. I am also inclined to think (if we should cross the Schuylkill) that they ought to be carted over also.
It has been proposed that some of the galleys should fall down to or near the mouth of Frankfort creek, in order to prevent troops from coming up by water, and falling in the rear of our pickets near the enemy’s lines; will you discuss with the Commodore on this subject? Will you also ask what is become of the hands that were on board the vessels which were burnt.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, 26 November, 1777.
I was yesterday morning honored with your favors of the 22d instt. I wish the measures Congress have adopted may effectually suppress the disturbances in the western department. Should they prove successful, and the savages and wicked, deluded inhabitants receive a severe check, it is probable they will not be induced again to take part against us, or at least for some considerable time. Colonel Crawford set out yesterday evening, and will be with Congress, I expect, in the course of two or three days to take their commands. I was much obliged by the foreign intelligence you were pleased to transmit to me; it is agreeable and interesting; and I heartily wish there may be an early declaration of hostilities between France and Britain. From these advices, things seem to be getting into a proper train for it; and it is not easily to be conceived, that it can be much longer delayed. However, our expectations have not been answered in this instance, and they may yet be held in suspense. The political reasons, that lead to delay on the part of France, I do not perfectly understand. As to Britain, her honor is lost in the contest with us, and the most indignant insults will scarcely be able to draw her attention from her present pursuits. The account of Mr. Lee having effected the purpose of his embassy at the court of Berlin is of great importance, if it be true. In such case, administration, however desirous they may be, will probably be disappointed in their schemes of further mercenary aids against us.1
I must take the liberty to request the decision of Congress on the case of the nine first raised Virginia regiments, as early as circumstances will permit. If the plan proposed for reënlisting them is judged expedient, one capital inducement to that end, suggested by the officers, will cease if it is longer delayed. It is a matter of considerable importance, and of which I wish to be satisfied as soon as possible. I should also be happy in their determination respecting the Marquis de Lafayette. He is more and more solicitious to be in actual service, and is pressing in his applications for a command. I ventured before to submit my sentiments upon the measure, and I still fear a refusal will not only induce him to return in disgust, but may involve some unfavorable consequences. There are now some vacant divisions in the army, to one of which he may be appointed, if it should be the pleasure of Congress. I am convinced he possesses a large share of that military ardor, which generally characterizes the nobility of his country. He went to Jersey with General Greene, and I find he has not been inactive there. This you will perceive by the following extract from a letter just received from General Greene:—
The Marquis, with about four hundred militia and the rifle corps, attacked the enemy’s picket last evening, killed about twenty, wounded many more, and took about twenty prisoners. The Marquis is charmed with the spirited behavior of the militia and rifle corps; they drove the enemy about half a mile, and kept the ground until dark. The enemy’s picket consisted of about three hundred, and were reinforced during the skirmish. The Marquis is determined to be in the way of danger.1
By a letter from General Howe to General Burgoyne, which passed through my hands, he hinted that liberty might probably be granted for the prisoners to embark at Rhode Island, or some part of the Sound. This indulgence appearing to me inadmissible, I immediately wrote to General Heath to prevent him giving the least countenance to the measure, in case it should be requested; and also to the Council of Massachusetts State and General Gates, lest he should extend his applications to them. The reasons, I am persuaded, will at once occur to Congress for my conduct in this instance, as well as for General Howe’s; and I have been induced to mention it here, on a supposition that General Burgoyne may address them on the subject. If the embarkation is confined to Boston, it is likely that it will not take place before some time in the spring, or at least till towards the end of February; whereas, if it were allowed at either of the other places, it might be made this month or the beginning of next, and the troops arrive in Britain by the month of January; a circumstance of great importance to us, as, the moment they get there, the most scrupulous and virtuous observance of the convention will justify the ministry in placing them in garrison, and sending others out to reinforce General Howe, or upon any other expedition, that they may think proper to undertake against us. Besides, compelling their transports to perform a long coasting voyage, at a tempestuous season, may bring on the loss of many, and be the means of deferring the embarkation for a long time.
I must request you to transmit me a number of blank commissions as soon as you have an opportunity to do it. There are several vacancies yet to fill, and the officers entitled to ’em are anxious to be appointed. The Commissions I want should be under your signature and not Mr. Hancock’s. I mention this lest you should find any of the latter that might remain. Those signed by you will be competent to all cases. Those by Mr. Hancock only to such as happened during his Presidency, and of those I now have some.
November 27th.—Enclosed you will receive a copy of General Howe’s letter in answer to mine of the 14th and 23d, which only came to hand last night, and at an instant when I was giving the commissary of prisoners instructions forthwith to confine a number of the officers in our hands, and to put the privates under very different restrictions from those they have been used to. I am in hopes the treatment of ours will be much better in future. Mr. Boudinot will immediately take measures for releasing the officers on parole, that we may relieve an equal number of ours. I should have been happy to have effected a general exchange, or a partial one; but General Howe will not upon any terms but those he has ever insisted on.1 The enemy have got up several of their ships to the city. It is likely they have found a passage through the chevaux-de-frise, or they may have removed one of them. I have the honor, &c.2
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GREENE.
Head-Quarters, 28 November, 1777,
Captain Duplessis has just delivered to me yours of this morning from Burlington. Every account from Philadelphia confirms the report, that the enemy mean to make a speedy move. I shall not be disappointed if they come out this night or very early in the morning. You will therefore push forward the rear brigades with all possible expedition, and, the moment that the troops and baggage have all passed, let the boats be instantly sent up the river to Coryell’s Ferry; for one part of my information is, that the enemy are preparing to send boats up the Delaware, and it cannot be for any other purpose, than to destroy the remainder of our water-craft. I shall be glad that you would come on immediately upon the receipt of this, and send word back to the brigadiers to hasten their march. I am, &c.1
If Genl. Greene should not be found Genl. Varnum or Huntingdon will be pleased to do what is directed above and send word to the Captains of the gallies to fall lower down the river, to meet any boats that may be coming up to annoy the passage of the troops or baggage.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head Quarters,White Marsh,
On Saturday I had the Honor to receive your Favor of the 26th Ulto. with its Inclosures.
The Resolve of the 25th I have published in Orders agreeable to direction, and shall be happy if Congress can fall upon measures to render the situation of the Officers & Soldiery more eligible than what it now is. At present it is truly distressing and unless some means can be devised to support them more comfortably, we shall have to apprehend the most alarming consequences. The officers or at least a large proportion of them, as well as the Men are in a most disagreeable condition as to Cloathing, and without any certain prospect of relief;—And what is still more painful, if perchance they have an opportunity of purchasing, which is seldom the case, they have the mortification to find themselves totally incompetent to it, from the depreciation of our Money and the exorbitant prices demanded for all Articles in this way. This is the source of great uneasiness—of indifference to the service—and of repeated, I may say, daily application to leave it—and these too, by as good officers as are in the American line. In respect to promotions for merit and intrepidity, I would beg leave to observe, that tho these are proper considerations to found them upon, yet they should be made with the greatest caution & attention, and only in cases of the most eminent and distinguished services. Every promotion or rise out of common course cannot fail to excite uneasiness in a greater or lesser degree, and nothing will reconcile them to the army at large, and particularly the officers more immediately affected by them but where the causes are known and acknowledged. This I mention from my wishes to promote the public interest from my knowing that Harmony is essential to this end, and from no other motives whatever.
Before the receipt of your Favor, I do not recollect to have heard of John Simper’s case. His Brother has not been with me,—as soon as he arrives, I shall give directions for him to be released from his present confinement and to be forwarded to Cecil County.
I have nothing material to inform you of. Lord Cornwallis and the Detachment under his command mentioned in my last, returned from Jersey on Thursday. We had reason to expect an Attack since from our advices from the City but have been disappointed. Genl. Greene has also joined me with all the Troops that were with him, except Huntington’s Brigade, which will be in to-day. I have, &c.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL PUTNAM.
Head-Quarters, 2 December, 1777.
The importance of the North River in the present contest, and the necessity of defending it, are subjects which have been so frequently and so fully discussed, and are so well understood, that it is unnecessary to enlarge upon them. These facts at once appear, when it is considered that it runs through a whole State; that it is the only passage by which the enemy from New York, or any part of our coast, can ever hope to coöperate with an army from Canada; that the possession of it is indispensably essential to preserve the communication between the eastern, middle, and southern States; and, further, that upon its security, in a great measure, depend our chief supplies of flour for the subsistence of such forces, as we may have occasion for, in the course of the war, either in the eastern or northern departments, or in the country lying high up on the west side of it. These facts are familiar to all; they are familiar to you. I therefore request you, in the most urgent terms, to turn your most serious and active attention to this infinitely important object. Seize the present opportunity, and employ your whole force and all the means in your power for erecting and completing, as far as it shall be possible, such works and obstructions as may be necessary to defend and secure the river against any future attempts of the enemy. You will consult Governor Clinton, General Parsons, and the French engineer, Colonel Radière, upon the occasion. By gaining the passage, you know the enemy have already laid waste and destroyed all the houses, mills, and towns accessible to them. Unless proper measures are taken to prevent them, they will renew their ravages in the spring, or as soon as the season will admit, and perhaps Albany, the only town in the State of any importance remaining in our hands, may undergo a like fate, and a general havoc and devastation take place.
To prevent these evils, therefore, I shall expect that you will exert every nerve, and employ your whole force in future, while and whenever it is practicable, in constructing and forwarding the proper works and means of defence. They must not be kept out on command, and acting in detachments to cover the country below, which is a consideration infinitely less important and interesting. I am, dear Sir, &c.1
TO JOSEPH REED.
Whitemarsh, 2 December, 1777.
If you can with any convenience, let me see you to-day, I shall be thankful for it. I am about fixing the winter cantonments of the army; and find so many and such capital objections to each mode proposed, that I am exceedingly embarrassed, not only by the advice given me, but in my own judgment, and should be very glad of your sentiments on the matter without loss of time. In hopes of seeing you, I shall only add, that from Reading to Lancaster inclusively, is the general sentiment, whilst Wilmington and its vicinity has powerful advocates. This, however, is mentioned under the rose; for I am convinced in my own opinion, that if the enemy believed we had this place in contemplation, they would possess themselves of it immediately. I am very sincerely, dear sir, yours affectionately.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL GATES.
2 December, 1777.
I was yesterday favored with yours of the 23d of November, and am glad to find that you were upon your guard against any attempt of General Burgoyne to endeavor to change the place of embarkation. No transports have yet sailed from the Delaware, for the purpose of carrying the troops to Europe, nor do I hear that any have gone from New York. I can only attribute this delay to want of provision for the voyage. Bread we know is exceedingly scarce among them.
By a resolve of Congress of the 5th of November, (copy of which I perceive, by the Resolve itself has been transmitted to you) you are directed, with a certain part of the northern army and the assistance of the militia of New York and the eastern States, to attempt the recovery of the posts upon the North River from the enemy, and to put them, if recovered, in the best posture of defence. The enemy having themselves vacated Forts Montgomery and Clinton, while the resolve was in agitation, but of which the Congress could not at the time be informed, the first part falls of course; but the last deserves our most serious attention, as upon the possession of the North River depends the security of all the upper part of the government of New York, and the communication between the eastern, middle, and southern States. It is also the quarter, in which the enemy will probably attempt a diversion in the spring; as, from the small force they have remaining in Canada, there is not a possibility of their doing any thing on that side, till very late in the campaign, if at all. My not having heard from you, what steps you have taken towards carrying the resolve for repairing the old works, or building new into execution, or when you might be expected down into that part of the country, has made me hitherto delay recalling General Putnam from the command. But I beg leave to urge to you the necessity of your presence in that quarter, as speedily as possible; for I fear few or no measures have yet been taken towards putting matters in a proper train for carrying on these important works. General George Clinton will necessarily be employed in the affairs of his government; but I have wrote to him, sir, and I am certain he will call for and contribute all the aid, that the State of New York can possibly afford. You are vested by the resolve of Congress with authority to demand a proportionable share of assistance from the eastern States. I observe by a paragraph in the Fishkill paper of some days later date than your letter, that the Enemy had evacuated Ticonderoga, and Independance. If this should have happened, it will not only relieve your attention from that object, but it will enable you to draw the Force which you might have intended to watch the operations of the Enemy in that quarter, lower down the River.
Lieut Colo. Willet, who was here a few days ago, mentioned that Gansevoort’s Regiment was at Fort Schuyler, and Van Schaik’s at Schenectady. He seemed of opinion from his knowledge of that country and from the disposition of the Indians since your success to the Northward, that a much less Garrison than the whole of Gansevoort’s Regt. would be sufficient for Fort Schuyler and that the remainder of that and Van Schaick’s might be brought down the Country. Your own Knowledge and Judgment will undoubtedly point out the propriety & safety of such a measure. I barely mention Colo. Willet’s opinion of the matter.
You must be so well convinced of the importance of the North River that nothing more need be said to induce you to set about the security of it with the greatest vigour. I sometime ago sent up Lt. Colo. La Radiere to Fishkill to assist in carrying on the Works, but if he, with the Gentleman who was before with you should not be sufficient, I can send up another who I believe is a master of his profession.
General Howe has withdrawn himself close within his lines, which extend from the Upper Ferry upon the Schuylkill to Kensington upon the Delaware; they consist of a chain of strong redoubts connected by abatis. We have reconnoitred them well, but find it impossible to attack them while defended by a force fully equal to our own in Continental troops. The reinforcement from New York unluckily arriving before ours from the northward, it was out of my power to afford adequate relief to Fort Mifflin, which fell after a most gallant defence of seven weeks. The works upon the Jersey shore, which were of no great consequence after the reduction of Fort Mifflin, were evacuated, as it would have been impossible to support the garrison there. We have not yet determined upon a position for the army during the winter. That situation will undoubtedly be most eligible, which will afford best cover to the troops, and will at the same time cut off the enemy from resources of provision, which they may probably stand in need of when the navigation of Delaware is obstructed by the ice. I am, Sir, &c.1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
I have the honor to inform you, that in the course of last week, from a variety of intelligence, I had reason to expect that General Howe was preparing to give us a general action. Accordingly, on Thursday night he moved from the city with all his force, except a very inconsiderable part left in his lines and redoubts, and appeared the next morning on Chesnut Hill, in front of, and about three miles distant from, our right wing. As soon as their position was discovered, the Pennsylvania militia were ordered from our right, to skirmish with their light advanced parties; and I am sorry to mention, that Brigadier-General Irvine, who led them on, had the misfortune to be wounded and to be made prisoner. Nothing more occurred on that day.
On Friday night the enemy changed their ground, and moved to our left, within a mile of our line, where they remained quiet and advantageously posted the whole of the next day. On Sunday they inclined still further to our left; and, from every appearance, there was reason to apprehend they were determined on an action. In this movement, their advanced and flanking parties were warmly attacked by Colonel Morgan and his corps, and also by the Maryland militia under Colonel Gist. Their loss I cannot ascertain; but I am informed it was considerable, having regard to the number of the corps who engaged them. About sunset, after various marches and countermarches, they halted; and I still supposed, from their disposition and preceding manœuvres, that they would attack us in the night or early the next morning; but in this I was mistaken. On Monday afternoon they began to move again, and, instead of advancing, filed off from their right; and the first certain account that I could obtain of their intentions was, that they were in full march towards Philadelphia by two or three routes. I immediately detached light parties after them to fall upon their rear; but they were not able to come up with them.
The enemy’s loss, as I have observed, I cannot ascertain. One account from the city is, that five hundred wounded had been sent in; another is, that eighty-two wagons had gone in with men in this situation. These, I fear, are both exaggerated, and not to be depended upon. We lost twenty-seven men in Morgan’s corps, killed and wounded, besides Major Morris, a brave and gallant officer, who is among the latter. Of the Maryland militia there were also sixteen or seventeen wounded. I have not received further returns yet. I sincerely wish that they had made an attack; as the issue, in all probability, from the disposition of our troops, and the strong situation of our camp, would have been fortunate and happy. At the same time I must add, that reason, prudence, and every principle of policy, forbade us quitting our post to attack them. Nothing but success would have justified the measure; and this could not be expected from their position.
The constant attention and watching I was obliged to give the enemy’s movements would not allow me to write before; and this I believe was the less material, as I have reason to think your committee, who were in camp most of the time, and who are now here, transmitted an account of such occurrences as they deemed important in any degree. The first cause, too, Sir, and my engagements with the committee previous to the coming out of the enemy, will, I trust, sufficiently apologize for my not acknowledging before the honor of your favors of the 13th ultimo and the 1st instant, which came to hand in due order and time. I have the honor to be, &c.1
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
I had the honor of receiving yours of the 1st Inst. some time since, but the situation which the Army has been in must apologise for my not answering it sooner.
General Howe, after making great preparations, and threatening to drive us beyond the mountains, came out with his whole force last Thursday evening, and, after manœuvring round us till the Monday following, decamped very hastily, and marched back to Philadelphia.
In my opinion, trying the officers taken by General Dickinson on Staten Island, for high treason, may prove a dangerous expedient. It is true, they left the State after such an offence was declared to be treason; but, as they had not taken the oaths, nor had entered into our service, it will be said they had a right to choose their side. Again, by the same rule that we try them, may not the enemy try any natural born subject of Great Britain, taken in arms in our service? We have a great number of them; and I therefore think, that we had better submit to the necessity of treating a few individuals, who may really deserve a severer fate, as prisoners of war, than run the risk of giving an opening for retaliation upon the Europeans in our service.1
I am pleased to hear, that your Assembly are in so good a disposition to regulate the price of necessaries for the army. I could wish that they would not forget to regulate the prices of country produce, which the commissaries tell me has risen to so exorbitant a rate, that there is no purchasing a single article from the farmers. I am, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Head-Quarters, near the Gulf,
On Thursday evening I had the honor to receive your favor of the 8th instant. From several letters, which have lately passed between General Howe and myself, I am fully convinced, that any propositions by me to release the Baron St. Ouary from captivity, either by an exchange or on parole, would be unavailing. He has explicitly stated his sentiments, and has declared himself to be utterly against a partial exchange. The situation of the Baron, through the interest and acquaintance of the Marquis de Lafayette with an officer in the guards, is much more comfortable than that of any of our officers, who are prisoners, he being on parole in the city, whilst they are all confined in the State-House. I do not know that it is the practice in Europe not to consider volunteers as prisoners. I am inclined to believe that it is not, and that they are generally held as such, unless the contrary is particularly stipulated by cartel. However this may be, they have been held in the present contest on both sides on the footing of other prisoners, and exchanged as such. Besides this, I fear that a proposition calculated for the peculiar benefit of the Baron, would be ill received by our unhappy officers, who have been much longer in confinement, whose sufferings are far greater than his, and who claim a right to exchange in due course.1
The inquiries, directed in the resolutions contained in your letter of the 30th ultimo, respecting the loss of the forts in the Highlands and of Fort Mifflin, I shall order to be made, as soon as circumstances will admit. These, however, it is probable, will not be effected in a short time, from the situation of our affairs and inevitable necessity. On Thursday morning we marched from our old encampment, and intended to pass the Schuylkill at Madison’s Ford, where a bridge had been laid across the river. When the first division and a part of the second had passed, they found a body of the enemy, consisting, from the best accounts we have been able to obtain, of four thousand men, under Lord Cornwallis, possessing themselves of the heights on both sides of the road leading from the river and the defile called the Gulf, which I presume are well known to some part of your honorable body. This unexpected event obliged such of our troops, as had crossed, to repass, and prevented our getting over till the succeeding night. This manœuvre on the part of the enemy was not in consequence of any information they had of our movement, but was designed to secure the pass whilst they were foraging in the neighboring country. They were met in their advance by General Potter, with part of the Pennsylvania militia, who behaved with bravery and gave them every possible opposition, till he was obliged to retreat from their superior numbers. Had we been an hour sooner, or had the least information of the measure, I am persuaded we should have given his Lordship a fortunate stroke, or obliged him to return without effecting his purpose, or drawn out all General Howe’s force to support him. Our first intelligence was, that it was all out. Lord Cornwallis collected a good deal of forage, and returned to the city the night we passed the river. No discrimination marked his proceedings. All property, whether of friends or foes, that came in their way, was seized and carried off.1
Enclosed is a copy of a letter from General Burgoyne, by which you will perceive he requests leave to embark his troops at Rhode Island, or at some place on the Sound; and, in case this cannot be granted, that he may be allowed, with his suite, to go there and return from thence to England. His first proposition, as I have observed upon a former occasion, is certainly inadmissible, and for reasons obvious to himself. As to the second, which respects the departure of himself and suite, Congress will be pleased to determine upon it and favor me with their sentiments by the first opportunity, that I may know what answer to give him.1 I learn from Mr. Griffin, who has just come from Boston, that this gentleman either holds, or professes to hold, very different ideas of our power from what he formerly entertained; that, without reserve, he has said it would be next to impossible for Britain to succeed in her views, and that he should with freedom declare his sentiments accordingly on his arrival in England; and that he seemed to think the recognition of our independence by the King and Parliament an eligible measure, under a treaty of commerce upon a large and extensive scale. How far these professions are founded in sincerity, it is not easy to determine; but if they are, what a mighty change! While I am on the subject of Mr. Burgoyne and his army, I would submit it to Congress, whether it will not be right and reasonable, that all expenses, incurred on their account for provisions, should be paid and satisfied previously to their embarkation and departure; I mean by an actual deposit of the money. Unless this is done, there will be little reason to suppose, that it will ever be paid. They have failed (that is, the nation) in other instances, as I have been told, after liquidating their accounts and giving the fullest certificates, and we cannot expect they will keep better faith with us than with others. The payment, too, I should apprehend, ought to be in coin, as it will enable us to administer some relief to our unfortunate officers and men who are in captivity.1
December 15th.—Congress seem to have taken for granted a fact, that is really not so. All the forage for the army has been constantly drawn from Bucks and Philadelphia counties, and those parts most contiguous to the city; insomuch that it was nearly exhausted, and entirely so in the country below our camp. From these, too, were obtained all the supplies of flour, that circumstances would admit of. The millers in most instances were unwilling to grind, either from their disaffection or from motives of fear. This made the supplies less than they otherwise might have been, and the quantity, which was drawn from thence was little, besides what the guards, placed at the mills, compelled them to manufacture.1 As to stock, I do not know that much was had from thence, nor do I know that any considerable supply could have been had.
I confess I have felt myself greatly embarrassed with respect to a vigorous exercise of military power. An ill-placed humanity, perhaps, and a reluctance to give distress, may have restrained me too far; but these were not all, I have been well aware of the prevalent jealousy of military power, and that this has been considered as an evil, much to be apprehended, even by the best and most sensible among us. Under this idea, I have been cautious, and wished to avoid as much as possible any act that might increase it. However, Congress may be assured, that no exertions of mine, as far as circumstances will admit, shall be wanting to provide our own troops with supplies on the one hand, and to prevent the enemy from getting them on the other. At the same time they must be apprized, that many obstacles have arisen to render the former more precarious and difficult than they usually were, from a change in the commissary’s department, at a very critical and interesting period. I should be happy, if the civil authority in the several States, through the recommendations of Congress, or their own mere will, seeing the necessity of supporting the army, would always adopt the most spirited measures, suited to the end. The people at large are governed much by custom. To acts of legislation or civil authority they have ever been taught to yield a willing obedience, without reasoning about their propriety; on those of military power, whether immediate or derived originally from another source, they have ever looked with a jealous and suspicious eye. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO GOVERNOR TRUMBULL.
Headquarters, Gulf Mill,
I have the honor of yours of the 2d instant. I am much obliged for the attention you have paid to my requests through General Putnam, and I shall ever acknowledge the readiness with which you have always afforded any assistance from your State, when demanded immediately by myself.
I was never consulted in the least upon the Rhode Island expedition, and I cannot therefore pretend to say who were, or who were not, to blame; but it undoubtedly cost the public an enormous sum to little or no purpose.
I observe by the copy of your letter to Congress that your State had fallen upon means to supply your troops with clothing. I must earnestly beg that it may be sent on to camp as fast as it is collected. To cover the country more effectually, we shall be obliged to lay, in a manner, in the field the whole winter, and except the men are warmly clad they must suffer much.
Among the troops of your State there are three hundred and sixty-three drafts whose time of service will expire with this month. This deduction, with the former deficiency of the regiments, will reduce them exceedingly low; and, as I have represented this matter to Congress very fully, I hope they have before this time urged to the States, the necessity which there is of filling their regiments this winter. But lest they should not have done it, I beg leave to urge the matter to your immediate consideration. Recruits for the war ought, by all means, to be obtained if possible, but if that cannot be done, drafts for one year at least should be called out without delay. And I hope that as many as are now upon the point of going home will be immediately reinstated. We must expect to lose a considerable number of men by sickness, and other ways, in the course of the winter; and if we cannot take the field in the spring with a superior, or at least an equal force with the enemy, we shall have labored through the preceding campaign to little purpose.
I have the honor to be, &c.
TO GEORGE READ, PRESIDENT OF DELAWARE.
Head-Quarters, Gulf Mill,
I have received information, which I have great reason to believe is true, that the enemy mean to establish a post at Wilmington, for the purpose of countenancing the disaffected in the Delaware State, drawing supplies from that country and the lower parts of Chester county, and securing a post upon the Delaware River during the winter. As the advantages resulting to the enemy from such a position are most obvious, I have determined, and shall accordingly this day send off General Smallwood with a respectable Continental force, to take post at Wilmington before them. If General Howe thinks the place of that importance to him, which I conceive it is, he will probably attempt to dispossess us of it; and as the force, which I can at present spare, is not adequate to making it perfectly secure, I expect that you will call out as many militia as you possibly can, to rendezvous without loss of time at Wilmington, and put themselves under the command of General Smallwood. I shall hope that the people will turn out cheerfully, when they consider that they are called upon to remain within and defend their own State.
In a letter, which I had the honor of receiving from you some little time past, you express a wish, that some mode may be fallen upon, to procure the exchange of Governor McKinly. As this gentleman will be considered in the civil line, I have not any prisoner of war proper to be proposed for him. The application would go more properly to Congress, who have a number of State prisoners under their direction, for some of whom, Sir William Howe would, probably, exchange the Governor. * * *1
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
On Saturday evening I had the honor to receive your favor of the 17th instant, with its enclosures. The next day I wrote to General Burgoyne upon the subject of his application, and transmitted to him a copy of the resolution of Congress founded thereon. That the matter might not be delayed, I despatched my letter by the express, who brought yours, he having informed me, that you expected he would be sent with it.
It is with infinite pain and concern, that I transmit to Congress the enclosed copies of sundry letters respecting the state of the commissary’s department. In these, matters are not exaggerated. I do not know from what cause this alarming deficiency, or rather total failure of supplies, arises; but, unless more vigorous exertions and better regulations take place in that line immediately, this army must dissolve. I have done all in my power, by remonstrating, by writing, by ordering the commissaries on this head, from time to time; but without any good effect, or obtaining more than a present scanty relief. Owing to this, the march of the army has been delayed, upon more than one interesting occasion, in the course of the present campaign; and had a body of the enemy crossed the Schuylkill this morning, as I had reason to expect, from the intelligence I received at four o’clock last night, the divisions which I ordered to be in readiness to march and meet them could not have moved. It is unnecessary for me to add more upon the subject. I refer Congress to the copies, by one of which they will perceive, how very unfavorable also our prospect is of having any considerable supplies of salt provisions for the ensuing year.1
I would also take the liberty of reminding Congress of the necessity of filling, as soon as possible, the offices of quartermaster and adjutant general. These posts are of infinite importance, and without appointments to them it will be impossible to conduct the affairs of the army. The first office is now suffering much for want of a head to direct the great business of it; and the latter will be in the same predicament, in the course of a few days, by the departure of Colonel Pickering, who, since his appointment to the Board of War, has been waiting only for a successor.1
Three o’clock, P. M.—Just as I was about to conclude my letter, your favor of the 20th came to hand. It would give me infinite pleasure to afford protection to every individual, and to every spot of ground, in the whole of the United States. Nothing is more my wish; but this is not possible with our present force. In all wars, from the nature of things, individuals and particular places must be exposed. It has ever been and ever will be the case, and we have only to pity and to regret the misfortune of those, who from their situation are subject to ravage and depredation. These facts are obvious to all; and if that system of conduct is pursued by an army, which is most likely to give the most extensive security, it is all that can be done or expected from it.
I assure you, Sir, no circumstance in the course of the present contest, or in my whole life, has employed more of my reflection or consideration, than in what manner to effect this, and to dispose of the army during the winter. Viewing the subject in any point of light, there was a choice of difficulties. If keeping the field was thought of,—the naked condition of the troops and the feelings of humanity opposed the measure; if returning to the towns in the interior parts of the State, which consistently with the preservation of the troops, from their necessitous circumstances, might have been justifiable,—the measure was found inexpedient, because it would have exposed and left uncovered a large extent of country; if cantoning the troops in several places, divided and distant from each other,—then there was a probability of their being cut off, and but little prospect of their giving security to any part. Under these embarrassments, I determined to take post near this place, as the best calculated in my judgment to secure the army, to protect our stores, and cover the country; and for this purpose we are beginning to hut, and shall endeavor to accomplish it as expeditiously as possible.
I have also, from a desire of preventing the enemy from an intercourse with the Delaware State, and from making incursions there, detached General Smallwood with the Maryland forces to take post at Wilmington, which I had strong reason to believe the enemy intended. This however I cannot but consider as hazardous, and shall be happy if it does not turn out so. I have it also in contemplation to throw a bridge over the Schuylkill near this place, as soon as it is practicable; by means of which I hope we shall be able in a great measure, with the aid of the militia, to check the excursions of the enemy’s parties on the other side.
As to Jersey, I am sensible of her sufferings and exertions in the present contest, and there is no State to which I would more willingly extend protection; but, as I have observed, it is not in my power to give it, in that degree, which seems to be wished and expected. I cannot divide the army (not superior, when collected, from sickness and other causes equally painful, to the enemy’s force,) into detachments, contrary to every military principle, and to our own experience of the dangers that would attend it. If this is done, I cannot be answerable for the consequences. My feelings lead strongly to universal relief, but I have not the power to afford it; nevertheless, it has been and is still my intention, as soon as I have formed and secured this camp, to detach a small force to aid and countenance their militia. This is all, it appears to me, that can be done; and I hope the apprehensions in that quarter for the greater part will prove rather imaginary than well grounded, though I confess there are strong reasons to conclude, that the enemy will not be remiss in their acts of violence and injury there or any where else. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Valley Forge, 23 December, 1777.
Full as I was in my representation of the matters in the commissary’s department yesterday, fresh and more powerful reasons oblige me to add, that I am now convinced beyond a doubt, that, unless some great and capital change suddenly takes in that line, this army must inevitably be reduced to one or other of these three things; starve, dissolve, or disperse in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can. Rest assured, Sir, this is not an exaggerated picture, and that I have abundant reason to suppose what I say.
Yesterday afternoon, receiving information that the enemy in force had left the city, and were advancing towards Derby with the apparent design to forage, and draw subsistence from that part of the country, I ordered the troops to be in readiness, that I might give every opposition in my power; when behold, to my great mortification, I was not only informed, but convinced, that the men were unable to stir on account of provision, and that a dangerous mutiny, begun the night before, and which with difficulty was suppressed by the spirited exertions of some officers, was still much to be apprehended for want of this article. This brought forth the only commissary in the purchasing line in this camp; and, with him, this melancholy and alarming truth, that he had not a single hoof of any kind to slaughter, and not more than twenty-five barrels of flour! From hence form an opinion of our situation when I add, that he could not tell when to expect any.
All I could do under these circumstances, was to send out a few light parties to watch and harass the enemy, whilst other parties were instantly detached different ways to collect, if possible, as much provision as would satisfy the present pressing wants of the soldiery. But will this answer? No, Sir; three or four days of bad weather would prove our destruction. What then is to become of the army this winter? And if we are so often without provisions now, what is to become of us in the spring, when our force will be collected, with the aid perhaps of militia to take advantage of an early campaign, before the enemy can be reinforced? These are considerations of great magnitude, meriting the closest attention; and they will, when my own reputation is so intimately connected with the event and to be affected by it, justify my saying, that the present commissaries are by no means equal to the execution of the office, or that the disaffection of the people is past all belief. The misfortune, however, does in my opinion proceed from both causes; and, though I have been tender heretofore of giving any opinion, or lodging complaints, as the change in that department took place contrary to my judgment, and the consequences thereof were predicted; yet, finding that the inactivity of the army, whether for want of provisions, clothes, or other essentials, is charged to my account, not only by the common vulgar but by those in power, it is time to speak plain in exculpation of myself. With truth, then, I can declare, that no man in my opinion ever had his measures more impeded than I have, by every department of the army.
Since the month of July we have had no assistance from the quartermaster-general, and to want of assistance from this department the commissary-general charges great part of his deficiency. To this I am to add, that, notwithstanding it is a standing order, and often repeated, that the troops shall always have two days’ provisions by them, that they might be ready at any sudden call; yet an opportunity has scarcely ever offered, of taking an advantage of the enemy, that has not been either totally obstructed, or greatly impeded, on this account. And this, the great and crying evil, is not all. The soap, vinegar, and other articles allowed by Congress, we see none of, nor have we seen them, I believe, since the battle of Brandywine. The first, indeed, we have now little occasion for; few men having more than one shirt, many only the moiety of one, and some none at all. In addition to which, as a proof of the little benefit received from a clothier-general, and as a further proof of the inability of an army, under the circumstances of this, to perform the common duties of soldiers, (besides a number of men confined to hospitals for want of shoes, and others in farmers’ houses on the same account,) we have, by a field-return this day made, no less than two thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight men now in camp unfit for duty, because they are barefoot and otherwise naked. By the same return it appears, that our whole strength in Continental troops, including the eastern brigades, which have joined us since the surrender of General Burgoyne, exclusive of the Maryland troops sent to Wilmington, amounts to no more than eight thousand two hundred in camp fit for duty; notwithstanding which, and that since the 4th instant, our numbers fit for duty, from the hardships and exposures they have undergone, particularly on account of blankets (numbers having been obliged, and still are, to sit up all night by fires, instead of taking comfortable rest in a natural and common way), have decreased near two thousand men.
We find gentlemen, without knowing whether the army was really going into winter-quarters or not (for I am sure no resolution of mine would warrant the Remonstrance), reprobating the measure as much as if they thought the soldiers were made of stocks or stones, and equally insensible of frost and snow; and moreover, as if they conceived it easily practicable for an inferior army, under the disadvantages I have described ours to be, which are by no means exaggerated, to confine a superior one, in all respects well-appointed and provided for a winter’s campaign, within the city of Philadelphia, and to cover from depredation and waste the States of Pennsylvania and Jersey. But what makes this matter still more extraordinary in my eye is, that these very gentlemen,—who were well apprized of the nakedness of the troops from ocular demonstration, who thought their own soldiers worse clad than others, and who advised me near a month ago to postpone the execution of a plan I was about to adopt, in consequence of a resolve of Congress for seizing clothes, under strong assurances that an ample supply would be collected in ten days agreeably to a decree of the State (not one article of which, by the by, is yet come to hand),—should think a winter’s campaign, and the covering of these States from the invasion of an enemy, so easy and practicable a business. I can assure those gentlemen, that it is a much easier and less distressing thing to draw remonstrances in a comfortable room by a good fireside, than to occupy a cold, bleak hill, and sleep under frost and snow, without clothes or blankets. However, although they seem to have little feeling for the naked and distressed soldiers, I feel superabundantly for them, and, from my soul, I pity those miseries, which it is neither in my power to relieve or prevent.1
It is for these reasons, therefore, that I have dwelt upon the subject; and it adds not a little to my other difficulties and distress to find, that much more is expected of me than is possible to be performed, and that upon the ground of safety and policy I am obliged to conceal the true state of the army from public view, and thereby expose myself to detraction and calumny. The honorable committee of Congress went from camp fully possessed of my sentiments respecting the establishment of this army, the necessity of auditors of accounts, the appointment of officers, and new arrangements. I have no need, therefore, to be prolix upon these subjects, but I refer to the committee. I shall add a word or two to show, first, the necessity of some better provision for binding the officers by the tie of interest to the service, as no day nor scarce an hour passes without the offer of a resigned commission2 ; (otherwise I much doubt the practicability of holding the army together much longer, and in this I shall probably be thought the more sincere, when I freely declare, that I do not myself expect to derive the smallest benefit from any establishment that Congress may adopt, otherwise than as a member of the community at large in the good, which I am persuaded will result from the measure, by making better officers and better troops;) and, secondly, to point out the necessity of making the appointments and arrangements without loss of time. We have not more than three months, in which to prepare a great deal of business. If we let these slip or waste, we shall be laboring under the same difficulties all next campaign, as we have been this, to rectify mistakes and bring things to order.
Military arrangement, and movements in consequence, like the mechanism of a clock, will be imperfect and disordered by the want of a part. In a very sensible degree have I experienced this, in the course of the last summer, several brigades having no brigadiers appointed to them till late, and some not at all; by which means it follows, that an additional weight is thrown upon the shoulders of the Commander-in-chief, to withdraw his attention from the great line of his duty. The gentlemen of the committee, when they were at camp, talked of an expedient for adjusting these matters, which I highly approved and wish to see adopted; namely, that two or three members of the Board of War, or a committee of Congress, should repair immediately to camp, where the best aid can be had, and with the commanding officer, or a committee of his appointment, prepare and digest the most perfect plan, that can be devised, for correcting all abuses and making new arrangements; considering what is to be done with the weak and debilitated regiments, if the States to which they belong will not draft men to fill them, for as to enlisting soldiers it seems to me to be totally out of the question; together with many other things, that would occur in the course of such a conference; and, after digesting matters in the best manner they can, to submit the whole to the ultimate determination of Congress.
If this measure is approved, I would earnestly advise the immediate execution of it, and that the commissary-general of purchases, whom I rarely see, may be directed to form magazines without a moment’s delay in the neighbourhood of this camp, in order to secure provision for us in case of bad weather. The quartermaster-general ought also to be busy in his department. In short, there is as much to be done in preparing for a campaign, as in the active part of it. Every thing depends upon the preparation that is made in the several departments, and the success or misfortunes of the next campaign will more than probably originate with our activity or supineness during this winter. I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE EXECUTIVES OF THE EASTERN STATES.
I take the liberty of transmitting to you the enclosed return, which contains a state[ment] of such of the Connecticut1 regiments as are in the army immediately under my command. By this you will discover how deficient, how exceedingly short, they are of the complement of men, which of right, according to the establishment, they ought to have. This information I have thought it my duty to lay before you, that it may have that attention which its importance demands; and in full hope that the most early and vigorous measures will be adopted, not only to make the regiments more respectable, but complete. The expediency and necessity of this procedure are too obvious to need arguments. Should we have a respectable force to commence an early campaign with, before the enemy are reinforced, I trust we shall have an opportunity of striking a favorable and an happy stroke. But if we should be obliged to defer it, it will not be easy to describe, with any degree of precision, what disagreeable consequences may result from it. We may rest assured that Britain will strain every nerve to send from home and abroad, as early as possible, all the troops it shall be in her power to raise or procure. Her views and schemes for subjugating these States and bringing them under her despotic rule will be unceasing and unremitted. Nor should we, in my opinion, turn our expectations to, or have the least dependence on, the intervention of a foreign war. Our wishes on this have been disappointed hitherto, and perhaps it may long be the case. However, be this as it may, our reliance should be wholly on our own strength and exertions. If, in addition to these, there should be aid derived from a war between the enemy and any of the European powers, our situation will be so much the better; if not, our efforts and exertions will have been the more necessary and indispensable. For my own part, I should be happy if the idea of a foreign rupture should be thrown entirely out of the scale of politics, and that it may have not the least weight in our public measures. No bad effects could flow from it, but, on the contrary, many of a salutary nature. At the same time, I do not mean that such an idea ought to be dicsouraged among the people at large.
Your ready exertions to relieve the distress of your troops for clothing have given me the highest satisfaction. At the same time, knowing how exceedingly the service has been injured, how that every measure will be pursued that circumstances will admit to keep them supplied from time to time, no pains, no efforts can be too great for this purpose. The articles of shoes, stockings, and blankets demand the most particular attention, as the expenditure of them, from the operations and common accidents of war, we find to be greater than of any other articles. I assure you, sir, it is not easy to give you a just and accurate idea of the sufferings of the troops at large. Were they to be minutely detailed, the relation,—so unexpected, so contrary to the common opinion of people distant from the army—would scarcely be thought credible. I fear I shall wound your feelings by telling you, that by a field-return on the 23d instant, we had in camp not less than 2,898 men unfit for duty by reason of their being barefoot and otherwise naked. Besides these, there are many others detained at the hospitals and in farmers’ houses for the same causes. I will no longer dwell upon the melancholy subject, being firmly convinced that your views and most studious care will be employed to render the situation of the troops, both officers and privates, comfortable in future. If the several States direct their attention to this indispensably essential object, as I trust they will, I have the most sanguine hopes that their supplies, with those immediately imported by Congress themselves, will be equal to every demand.
The return transmitted comprehends only such troops of your State as are at this camp. I imagine all the regiments stand nearly upon the same footing in point of deficiency; and from it you will be able to form a pretty just estimate of the men that will be necessary to fill the whole.
Before I conclude I would also add that it will be essential to inoculate the recruits or levies as fast as they are raised that their earliest services may be had. Should this be postponed the work will be to do, most probably, at an interesting and critical period, and when their aid may be materially wanted.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir.
P. S.—We have taken post here for the winter, as a place best calculated to restrain the ravages of the enemy, and busily employed in erecting huts.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL CONWAY.1
Head-Quarters, 30 December, 1777.
I am favored with your letter of yesterday, in which you propose, (in order to lose no time,) to begin with the instruction of the troops. You will observe, by the resolution of Congress relative to your appointment, that the Board of War is to furnish a set of instructions, according to which the troops are to be manœuvred. As you have made no mention of having received them, I suppose they are not come to you; when they do, I shall issue any orders which may be judged necessary to have them carried into immediate execution.
Your appointment of inspector-general to the army, I believe, has not given the least uneasiness to any officer in it. By consulting your own feelings upon the appointment of the Baron de Kalb, you may judge what must be the sensation of those brigadiers, who by your promotion are superseded.1 I am told they are determined to remonstrate against it. For my own part I have nothing to do in the appointment of general officers, and shall always afford every countenance and due respect to those appointed by Congress, taking it for granted, that, prior to any resolve of that nature, they take a dispassionate view of the merits of the officer to be promoted, and consider every consequence that can result from such a procedure; nor have I any other wish on that head, but that good, attentive officers may be chosen, and no extraordinary promotion take place, but where the merit of the officer is so generally acknowledged, as to obviate every reasonable cause for dissatisfaction thereat.1 I am, Sir, &c.
TO GOVERNOR LIVINGSTON.
Valley Forge, 31 December, 1777.
It being of great importance to prevent the enemy from supplies of forage and provisions, I must take the liberty of requesting the interposition of your interest and authority for this purpose, and that the most speedy and suitable measures may be adopted and pursued, either by your direction, or that of the legislature or council, for the removal of all that lies within the vicinity of the Jersey shore, opposite to Philadelphia, or that may be within the reach of the enemy’s foraging parties, excepting such as may be really essential for the inhabitants’ use. They should be removed so far back from the water, that they will not be in danger of falling into the enemy’s hands. The Expediency and necessity of the procedure, I am satisfied, will appear at once to you, and I have no doubt as far as it may be in your power, it will be carried into execution. It is not unlikely but that some of the owners, especially if there are any tainted with toryism, will be somewhat averse to the measure, as it has happened in similar cases. However, I trust means will be found to do away their prejudices, and to convince them of the propriety of it. Indeed if they will reason from their own experience and that of their neighbors on this side Delaware, they cannot but assent to it. But be this as it may, it is a matter so important, that it ought not to be dispensed with. The present opportunity, while the weather is severe and a considerable quantity of ice in the River, is favorable for the removal, as the enemy will not be able to give any interruption.
I am not without power and directions from Congress to act myself in such instances. But I would wish the business to be done by civil authority, as their acts will create less jealousy and disgust, and be viewed in a much more unexceptionable light.
In a few days all our light-horse, except a few that will remain to do duty, will be sent to Trenton, to winter and recruit, it being a place under all circumstances the best adapted to that end. Besides recruiting, they will serve to protect the country from incursions by small parties of the enemy, and will give security to our stores and magazines. In addition to these, when we have secured and fortified our camp, if circumstances will possibly admit, I will send a few more troops. I cannot promise that they will be many, the army being now much reduced, by the expiration of the service of several regiments, and from other causes equally distressing. * * *
I sincerely feel for the unhappy condition of our poor fellows in the hospitals, and wish my powers to relieve them were equal to my inclination. It is but too melancholy a truth, that our hospital stores are exceedingly scanty and deficient in every instance, and I fear there is no prospect of their shortly being better. Our difficulties and distresses are certainly great, and such as wound the feelings of humanity. Our sick naked, and well naked, our unfortunate men in captivity naked! You were certainly right in representing the state of the sick, that they may be made more happy if possible. I have ordered a field-officer to be always in future at the hospitals, and hope that he will contribute all in his power to accommodate them, and prevent some of the inconveniences, which you mention, and which are of great moment. As to the directors, if they do not afford every aid in their power, their conduct is highly culpable, and deserves the severest reprehension. I assure you, Sir, I shall ever consider myself much obliged by your information of any grievances or abuses respecting the army, and shall never suppose that you step out of your proper line in giving it. We are all equally engaged in the present important struggle, and in the cause of humanity, and are equally concerned in promoting them. I have the honor to be, &c.
[1 ]A letter to General Greene of this date is written from the City Tavern at Philadelphia. Others are dated from Chester on Delaware, at 9.30 and 10 o’clock p.m.
[1 ]“I had proceeded thus far in order to look out for a proper place to arrange the army, when I received the provoking account that the enemy’s fleet left the Capes of Delaware yesterday, and steered eastward again. I shall return again with the utmost expedition to the North River; but as a sudden stroke is certainly intended by this manœuver, I beg you will immediately call in every man of the militia that you possibly can to strengthen the Highland posts. The importance of Fort Montgomery is such, that I wish you to repair immediately to it, if you possibly can, consistent with the duties of the office upon which you have newly entered. A party must be still kept to secure the entrance of the Clove.”—Washington to Governor George Clinton, 1 August, 1777.
[1 ]Congress had resolved on the 1st of August that General Schuyler should repair to head-quarters, and that “General Washington should be directed to order such general officer as he should think proper to repair to the northern department to relieve Major-General Schuyler in his command.” It was in consequence of this resolve, that the above letter was written. The day after the resolve was passed, General Washington received a letter from the New England delegates in Congress, as follows:—
[2 ]Read in Congress, August 4th.
[1 ]The plan recommended by Congress was, that each State should be divided into districts, and a person be appointed to raise recruits in each district, the whole to be under the direction of the State authorities. Security was to be taken of every such agent for a faithful discharge of his duty; and, as a full compensation for his trouble and expense, he was to receive eight dollars for every able-bodied recruit, that he should enlist for three years, or during the war. The same agent was empowered to take up deserters, and allowed five dollars for every deserter he should secure. The recruits were moreover permitted to join any regiment or company, which they should choose at the time they enlisted, if such regiment or company was not already full, and in that case they might choose any other. General Washington was directed to call in all the Continental officers then absent on the recruiting service, except such as were necessary to receive recruits, and march them to the army.—Journals, July 31st.
[1 ]This letter was likewise sent as a circular to all the States north of Virginia.
[1 ]“Genl Schuyler urges the necessity of further Reinforcements, alleging that he derives no assistance from the militia. Your post is the only one from whence a Reinforcement can immediately be sent; but as I would not wish to weaken you, as the Enemy seem to bend their course again towards you, without consulting you, I desire that you and the general officers would consider the matter fully, and, if you think you can spare Cortlandt’s and Livingston’s Regiments, that they may be put in readiness to move. I have ordered the heavy Baggage of the army to be thrown over Delaware again, and hold the men in constant readiness to march the moment we receive any accounts of the Enemy. I very much approve of your throwing Redoubts and Obstructions at the entrance of the passes near your posts, as they, with the natural Strength of the Ground, must render the approach of an Enemy extremely difficult without considerable loss.”—Washington to Major-General Putnam, 7 August, 1777.
[1 ]George Clinton was the first governor under the new Constitution of New York. He was chosen in July, and sworn into office at Kingston on the 30th of that month: and although from this date he exercised the civil functions of his station, yet he continued in active command of the militia of the State till after the defeat of Burgoyne.
[1 ]It is remarkable, that, as late as the year 1769, a law was passed in Virginia prohibiting inoculation for the smallpox, and imposing a penalty of one thousand pounds on any person, who should import or bring into the colony the infectious matter with a purpose of inoculation.—Hening’s Statutes at Large, vol. viii., p. 371.
[2 ]“I believe the evacuation of Tyconderoga has dissatisfied the people in general, nor can I say that I have as yet heard any reason which makes such a step appear absolutely necessary to me. However, as a strict inquiry into the conduct of the Commanding officers is soon to take place, the public will no doubt be fully satisfied with the determination of this court, who will, I dare say, give the world a full and impartial account of the whole proceeding, and condemn or acquit as matters, upon the fullest examination, will appear to them.—Washington to Major-General Heath, 5 August, 1777.
[1 ]“We are yet entirely in the dark as to the destination of the Enemy. The Fleet has neither been seen nor heard of since they left the Capes of Delaware, on this day week. If they had intended back to the Hook, we must have heard of their arrival there long before this time, as the Winds have been constantly fair. As the sickly season has commenced to the southward, and there is no capital object there, I cannot conceive that they are gone that way. I can therefore only conclude, that they intend to go round Long Island into the Sound, or still farther eastward. If they do either of these, it must be upon a plan of cooperating with Genl Burgoyne, who, as matters are going on, will find little difficulty of penetrating to Albany; for by the last accounts our army had fallen down to Saratoga.”—Washington to Major-General Putnam, 7 August, 1777.
[1 ]Congress decided that General Prescott, lately captured by Colonel Barton, should be retained as a pledge for the good treatment and release of General Lee, and, as nearly as circumstances would admit, receive the same usage. General Washington was also authorized to negotiate an exchange of prisoners, upon such terms as he should judge expedient, without regard to the previous resolutions of Congress respecting Colonel Campbell and the Hessian field-officers.
[1 ]“You will take every possible care in your power, as well in your march as during your stay at that place [Maidenhead], to restrain every species of licentiousness in the soldiery, and to prevent them doing the least injury to the inhabitants or their property, as nothing can be more disserviceable to our cause, or more unworthy of the characters we profess—to say nothing of the injustice of the measure.”—Washington to Col. Morgan, 9 August, 1777.
[1 ]Read in Congress, August 11th. “Referred to the Board of War, who are directed to carry the General’s plan of defence into execution with all possible despatch.”
[1 ]The British General Clinton had been absent during the past winter and spring in Great Britain, and had returned to New York on the 5th of July. He was now Sir Henry Clinton, having been invested with the Order of the Bath before his departure from England. He was left in New York by Sir William Howe, with the command of twenty-two battalions, and instructed to act on the defensive, or otherwise according to circumstances, always keeping in view the main object of securing New York.—Sir William Howe’s Letter, July 7th.
“Head-Quarters, 7 August, 1777.
“Edmund Palmer, an officer in the enemy’s service, was taken as a spy lurking within our lines; he has been tried as a spy, condemned as a spy, and shall be executed as a spy, and the flag is ordered to depart immediately.
“P. S. He has been accordingly executed.”—Sparks.
[2 ]“Your Vigilance in providing a proper Force to oppose the Enemy, and the Alacrity with which the Militia have assembled, afford me great Satisfaction. If your Efforts are seasonably and skilfully seconded by your Eastern neighbors, we may hope, that General Burgoyne will find it equally difficult to make a further Progress, or to effect a Retreat. You are the best Judge with respect to the Length of Service to be required from the militia. However, as their Assistance is a Resource, which must be sparingly employ’d, I would have them detain’d no longer than is absolutely necessary. The Excuse of Want of Confidence in General Officers, which has hitherto been alleged by the eastern States, for withholding those Reinforcements from the northern Army, which were expected of them, will be obviated by the presence of Major-Genl Gates.”—Washington to Governor Clinton, 13 August, 1777.
[1 ]Richard Dorsey, William Bird, George Gray, John Craig, and N. Buxton Moore, of Col. Moylan’s Light Dragoons. The above reply is in Washington’s writing.
[1 ]“I shall never wish to influence any Gentlemen to serve in this Army, if I have reason to believe they cannot do it consistent with that strict notion of Honor which should be the invariable rule of conduct for every officer, but am of opinion, nevertheless, that a Resignation in this part of a Campaign can only be warranted by treatment which would be disgraceful to bear, & therefore that your Resolution not to resign, at least, till the end of the Campaign must meet the approbation of all who wish to see you act with propriety.”—Washington to the same Lieutanants, 17 August, 1777.
[1 ]“The people in the northern army seem so intimidated by the Indians, that I have determined to send up Colonel Morgan’s corps of riflemen, who will fight them in their own way. They march from Trenton to-morrow morning, and reach Peekskill with all expedition.”—Washington to Major-General Putnam, 16 August, 1777.
[1 ]“The great bulk of the country is undoubtedly with the Congress, in principle and in zeal; and their measures are executed with a secrecy and dispatch that are not to be equalled. Wherever the king’s forces point, militia, to the amount of three or four thousand, assemble in twenty-four hours; they bring with them their subsistence, &c., and, the alarm over, they return to their farms. The Hampshire Grants in particular, a country unpeopled and almost unknown in the last war, now abounds in the most active and most rebellious race of the continent, and hangs like a gathering storm upon my left.”—Burgoyne to Lord George Germaine, 20 August, 1777.
[1 ]“I was just now informed that Lieut. McNaire, of the Artillery, has been arrested, and stands bound over to the nearest Court to be held for Hertford County, for enlisting two men to serve in one of the Continental Regiments of Artillery. This, it is said, is in consequence of an act of your Assembly, by which all officers are prohibited from enlisting men within the State, unless they are of the Regiments belonging to it. I have never seen the Law, and therefore cannot pretend to determine how far the prohibition extends, but should suppose, it was only designed to prevent the Officers of other States enlisting men to fill up the Regiments assigned to their Quota. So far, it appears to me, the Act would be founded on the strictest justice; but when there is an absolute necessity for Artillery Corps,—when three such Regiments were ordered to be raised by Congress, without being apportioned on any particular State, certainly each should furnish a proportion of men. This case is quite otherwise. All in this Line now with the Army have been enlisted in the New England States, a few excepted, and the greatest part in that of Massachusetts, over and above their quota of the 88 Battalions first voted, and a proportion of the additional 16. I will not say anything of the policy or impolicy of the Act, if it has a more extensive operation than I have supposed it to have; but I would take the liberty to observe that in my opinion, it would be for the advantage of the States if each of ’em had men employed in this important branch of war, not to add, that the whole ought to contribute equally to the filling of all Corps that are deemed essential, and which are not allotted to any individual one.”—Washington to the Maryland Delegates in Congress, 17 August, 1777.
[1 ]The appointment of the Marquis de Lafayette as a major-general in the service of the United States, took place on the 31st of July, and is thus recorded in the Journals of Congress.
[1 ]On August 4th Congress vested Gates with the command of the Northern Department, and on the 19th he joined the army at Van Schaack’s Island, at the junction of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers, nine miles north of Albany. “I cannot sufficiently thank your Excellency,” he wrote to Washington on the 22d, “for sending Col. Morgan’s corps to this army. They will be of the greatest service to it. For until the late success this way I am told, the army were quite panic struck by the Indians, and their Tory and Canadian assassins, in Indian Dress.”
[1 ]In the council of war it was decided, as the unanimous opinion of the board of officers: first, that the enemy’s fleet had most probably sailed for Charleston; secondly, that it was not expedient for the army to march southward, as it could not possibly arrive at Charleston in time to afford any succor; thirdly, that the army should move immediately towards the North River. The Marquis de Lafayette took part for the first time in the council of war convened on this occasion, and attended with the rank of major-general. Congress approved this decision, on the same day that the above letter was written; but intelligence arrived the next morning, that the British fleet had been seen far up the Chesapeake Bay, and was communicated to General Washington by President Hancock, in a letter dated August 22d, at half-past one o’clock in the afternoon, as follows: “This moment an express arrived from Maryland with an account of near two hundred sail of General Howe’s fleet being at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay. In consequence of this advice, Congress have ordered the immediate removal of the stores and prisoners from Lancaster and York in this State to places of greater safety.” This intelligence of course immediately changed the plan of operations.
[1 ]“By the enclosed, which has this moment come to hand, you will perceive that the Enemy’s Fleet have at length fairly entered the Chesapeake Bay, Swan Point being at least two hundred miles up. I desire you will immediately forward this account to Govr Trumbull, to be by him sent on the eastward. As there is not now the least danger of General Howe’s going to New England, I hope the whole Force of that Country will turn out, and, by following the great stroke struck by Genl Stark near Bennington, entirely crush Genl Burgoyne, who by his letter to Colonel Baum seems to be in want of almost every thing. I hope you will draw in such a Force of Militia as will effectually secure your post against any attempt from New York. I shall be obliged to draw Genl Sullivan with his division down to me; for, by Genl Howe’s coming so far up Chesapeake, he must mean to reach Philadelphia by that rout, tho’ to be sure it is a very strange one.”—Washington to Major-General Putnam, 22 August, 1777.
[2 ]On the 21st Congress approved the determination of Washington to march towards Hudson’s River; but on the receipt of intelligence of the enemy’s appearance in the Chesapeake, it directed the General “to proceed in such manner as shall appear to him most conducive to the general interest.”—Journals, 22 August, 1777.
[1 ]“The main body of his [Washington’s] army this morning passed through this city. From the State House, we had a fair view of them as they passed in their several divisions. The army alone, with their necessary cannon—and artillery for each division, exclusive of their baggage wagons, guards, &c., which took another route, were upwards of two hours in passing with a lively, smart step.”—Henry Marchant to Governor Cooke, 24 August, 1777.
[1 ]“Resolved, That the President inform General Washington, that Congress never intended by any commission hitherto granted by them, or by the Establishment of any Department whatever, to supercede or circumscribe the power of General Washington, as the Commander in chief of all the Continental Land Forces within the United States.”—Journals of Congress, 23 August, 1777.
[1 ]“August 25th—The army marched through Chester to Naaman’s Creek, the General and family advancing to Wilmington.”—Pickering’s Journal.
[2 ]“I have just recd information, that the Enemy began to land this morning about Six miles below Head of Elk, opposite to Cecil Court-House. The informant says he saw two thousand men, but he may be mistaken as to the number. I desire you to send off every man of the militia under your command, that is properly armed, as quick as possible. If they were to begin their march this night while it is cool, it will be the better. They are to proceed to Wilmington, where they will receive orders for their destination. I desire you will immediately send for General Potter, and give him directions to come on to me with all possible expedition. You must supply his place in the best manner you can. The first attempts of the Enemy will be to seize Horses, Carriages, and Cattle with light Parties, and we must endeavor to check them at their outset. Whatever militia are at Philadelphia, and equipped, should be ordered down immediately.”—Washington to Major-General Armstrong, 25 August, 1777.
[3 ]“August 26th—The General went with all the horse, save Sheldon’s, to reconnoitre.”—Pickering’s Journal.
[1 ]General Rodney commanded the Delaware militia. General Washington wrote to him: “For the present you can do no more than keep scouts and patrols towards the enemy, to watch their motions; but as soon as you are joined by more force from this State, by the militia of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, by Richardson’s battalion, I would have you move as near the enemy as you can with safety.”
[1 ]“Having endeavored, at the solicitation of the Count de Pulaski, to think of some mode for employing him in our service, there is none occurs to me liable to so few inconveniences and exceptions, as the giving him the command of the horse. This department is still without a head; as I have not, in the present deficiency of Brigadiers with the army, thought it advisable to take one from the foot for that command. The nature of the horse service with us being such, that they commonly act in detachment, a general officer with them is less necessary than at the head of the Brigades of infantry. In the absence of General Smallwood, who is ordered to put himself at the head of the Maryland militia, we shall have two Brigades without general officers. But though the horse will suffer less from the want of a general officer than the foot, a man of real capacity, experience, and knowledge in that service, might be extremely useful. The Count appears, by his recommendations, to have sustained no inconsiderable military character in his own country; and as the principal attention in Poland has been for some time past paid to the Cavalry, it is to be presumed this gentleman is not unacquainted with it. I submit it to Congress how far it may be eligible to confer the appointment I have mentioned upon him; they will be sensible of all the objections attending the measure, without my particularizing them, and can determine accordingly.
[1 ]“On my return to this place last evening from White-Clay Creek, I was honored with yours of the 27th, with sundry Resolves of Congress, to which I shall pay due attention. The Enemy advanced a part of their Army yesterday to Gray’s Hill, about two miles on this Side of Elk, whether intent to take post there, or to cover while they remove what Stores they found in the town, I cannot yet determine.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 29 August, 1777.
[2 ]This Declaration was issued on the 27th of August, at the Head of Elk, and differed from a Proclamation in nothing but the name. General Howe assured the inhabitants, that the strictest orders had been given for the preservation of regularity and discipline among the soldiers, and that the severest punishment would be inflicted on any one, who should dare to plunder their property or molest their persons. He, moreover, declared that security and protection would be extended to all persons who should remain peaceably at their usual places of abode; and he promised pardon to those, who had taken an active part in the rebellion, provided they should voluntarily return to their allegiance, and surrender themselves to any detachment of the King’s forces within a specified time.
[1 ]The draft of this letter contained the following sentences that were stricken out in the letter sent: “The daring practice of sending their recruiting officers among us, has been for some time past so familiar with the enemy, and has been attended with so much success, that it demands vigorous measures to put a stop to it;—and how much soever we may be disposed to mercy, the public good will hardly suffer us to indulge this disposition when offenders of so dangerous a kind come under our notice.”
[2 ]Troup was a lieutenant in the third battalion of the New Jersey (Loyal) Volunteers. He was captured while at dinner. His brother was an aid to Gates.
[1 ]“I have sufficient evidence to believe that a constant communication and commercial intercourse has been held for a considerable time past with the enemy by many of the Inhabitants of the County of Essex. That these communications have been principally supported by means of Flaggs and Passports obtained from divers officers of the Army under your Excellency’s command, who for some time past have been stationed at Elizabeth Town, Newark, and other places near the Enemy’s Lines.
[1 ]The whole number already made is about 70.—Note by Washington.
[1 ]Rumors had circulated to the disadvantage of General Sullivan, in regard to his expedition against Staten Island, and Congress had directed General Washington to appoint a court of inquiry to investigate the matter, and report thereon.—Journals, September 1st.
[1 ]“I have the honor of yours of yesterday with a number of Hand Bills giving an account of our successes to the northward. They shall be distributed among the soldiery, and I doubt not but they will answer the good end which is intended by them. Every piece of good news circulated in this manner thro’ the camp will certainly inspirit the troops.”—Washington to the Committee of Intelligence, 3 September, 1777.
[1 ]“September 6th.—Marched to Newport, three or four miles beyond Wilmington.”—Pickering’s Journal.
[2 ]“Since General Howe’s debarkation at the head of Chesapeake Bay, he has made very little progress, having only moved five or six miles from the shore with strong grounds in his front. Our advanced parties have had a small skirmish with his, but the damage on either side is inconsiderable. General Howe’s plans are yet very mysterious; a few days ago he sent all his tents and baggage on board again, and his ships have fallen some distance down Chesapeake Bay. This can be for no other purpose but to go round the Delaware and meet him there, as he can easily extend himself across the isthmus, which is narrow. This will be a strange manœuver indeed, as it will be exposing his ships to some danger upon the coast, at this tempestuous season, and should an accident happen to the fleet he must be ruined. A little time must unfold his true designs, which I trust we shall be able to baffle, as the troops are in good spirits, and the people of the country show an universal good-will to oppose the common enemy.”—Washington to Governor Trumbull, 8 September, 1777.
[1 ]Gordon states that the encampment taken at Redclay Creek, about halfway between Wilmington and Christiana, was condemned by General Greene as untenable, being directly in the enemy’s path. (ii., 494.) This was found to be true, and when the enemy advanced on the 8th “they took post in a position to turn our right flank, the Christiana Creek being on our left, the General thought our position too dangerous to risk a battle, as the enemy refused to fight us in front. The General ordered the army to file off to the right, and take post at this place (Chad’s Ford.)”—General Greene to his wife, 10 September, 1777.
[1 ]It is told of this letter that Washington after the fatigues of this day was too wearied to write to Congress, and directed one of his aides to do it. Harrison was too “distressed,” and so it fell to Pickering, the Adjutant-General. “I wrote it and gave it to the General to read. He, with perfect composure, directed me to add a consolatory hope that another day would give a more fortunate result.” Greene, Life of Nathaniel Greene, i., 454. The draft and original letter are both in Pickering’s handwriting.
[1 ]“On the 11th instant, we had a pretty general engagement with the enemy, which from some unlucky incidents terminated against us, so far as our being obliged after an obstinate action to quit the field;—with the loss of some men and artillery. But from every account we have reason to believe the enemy suffered much more than we did in the number of killed and wounded.—Our troops have not lost their spirits, and I am in hopes we shall soon have an opportunity of compensating for the disaster we have just sustained.
[2 ]Congress had ordered Washington “to appoint a proper person at headquarters to write to the president twice a day, or oftener if necessary, and give information of the position and movements of the armies.”—Journals of Congress, 9 September, 1777.
[1 ]“September 14th—The army, having yesterday cleaned their arms, and received ammunition to complete forty rounds a man, this day marched up a few miles and recrossed the Schuylkill at Levering’s Ford, the water being nearly up to the waist. . . . 15th. We advanced to the Warren tavern.”—Pickering’s Journal.
[1 ]General Deborre, in the action on the Brandywine, commanded a brigade in General Sullivan’s division. By a vote of Congress he was recalled from the army, till the charges against him should be investigated. The next day he waited on the President, and resigned his commission.
[1 ]The principal disasters of the battle of Brandywine happened in the quarter where General Sullivan commanded. Not being a favorite with several members of Congress, these persons censured him severely, and procured a resolve for his recall from the army, till the inquiry before ordered, respecting the affair at Staten Island, should be made. The execution of the resolve was suspended, in consequence of the above letter from the Commander-in-chief. A court of inquiry afterwards honorably acquitted General Sullivan.
[1 ]The day after the battle of Brandywine, while the enemy were at Dilworth-town, Sir William Howe wrote as follows to General Washington.
[1 ]In the prospect of the speedy removal of Congress from Philadelphia, and the uncertainty as to the time of the next meeting, enlarged powers were delegated to the Commander-in-chief, suited to the exigency of the occasion, and involving a high responsibility.—“Resolved, that General Washington be authorized and directed to suspend all officers who misbehave, and to fill up all vacancies in the American army, under the rank of brigadiers, until the pleasure of Congress shall be communicated; to take, wherever he may be, all such provisions and other articles as may be necessary for the comfortable subsistence of the army under his command, paying or giving certificates for the same; to remove and secure, for the benefit of the owners, all goods and effects, which may be serviceable to the enemy; provided that the powers hereby vested shall be exercised only in such parts of these States as may be within the circumference of seventy miles of the head-quarters of the American army, and shall continue in force for the space of sixty days, unless sooner revoked by Congress.”—Journals, September 17th.
[1 ]“His Excellency General Washington was with the troops who passed us here to the Perkiomen. The procession lasted the whole night, and we had all kinds of visits from officers wet to the breast, who had to march in that condition the cold, damp night through, and to bear hunger and thirst at the same time. This robs them of courage and health, and instead of prayers we hear from most, the national evil, curses.”—Muhlenberg’s Diary, 19 September, 1777.
[2 ]On this day Wayne was at Paoli. Gist had formed a junction with Smallwood on the evening of the 18th, and the combined detachments were near James Milligan’s tavern on the 19th.
[1 ]“Yesterday the enemy moved from Concord by the Edgemont road toward the Lancaster road, with evident design to gain our right flank. This obliged us to alter our position and march to this place, from whence we intend immediately to proceed to Warwick. We suffered much from the severe weather yesterday and last night, being unavoidably separated from our tents and baggage which not only endangers the health of the men; but has been very injurious to our arms and ammunition. These, when, we arrive at Warwick, we shall endeavor as soon as possible to put again into a proper condition; to do which and to refresh the men, are two principal motives for going there.”—Washington to the President of Congress, 17 September, 1777. He was then at Yellow Springs.
[1 ]“I do not wish your exertions to be be solely directed to obtaining Shoes and Blankets—extend them to every other article you know to be material for the army; your own prudence will point out the least exceptionable means to be pursued in these instances—but remember, that delicacy and a strict adherence to the ordinary modes of application must give place to our necessities. We must if possible, accommodate the soldiery with such articles as they stand in need of or we shall have just reasons to apprehend the most injurious and alarming consequences from the approaching season. . . . The business you are upon I know is disagreeable, and perhaps in the execution you may meet with more obstacles than were at first apprehended and also with opposition. To the parties I have mentioned, call in such a number of militia as you may think necessary, observing however, over the conduct of the whole, a strict discipline, to prevent every species of rapine and disorder.”—Washington to Hamilton, 22 September, 1777.
[1 ]When the enemy approached Philadelphia, September 18th, Congress adjourned to Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, where they assembled on the 27th. The same day they adjourned to York beyond the Susquehanna, in which place they met on the 30th, and continued there till the British evacuated Philadelphia.
[2 ]This is not a strictly accurate account of the decision of the council as entered upon the minutes; for it was unanimously determined that “from the present state of the army, it would not be advisable to advance upon the enemy, but remain upon this ground or in the neighborhood till the detachments and expected re-inforcements come up.”
[1 ]“On the 17th, in the morning, intelligence was brought that the enemy were advancing, upon which the army were paraded, and a disposition made to receive them, the picketts had exchanged a few shots, when a violent shower of rain, which continued all the day and the following night prevented all further operations.”—Washington’s Statement to Council of Officers, 23 September, 1777. Pickering states that the picket, “just posted (about three hundred strong), shamefully fled at the first fire,” and orders were given to march to Yellow Springs, a tedious march of about ten miles over bad roads.
[1 ]“On the night of the 20th the army decamped and marched up to the Trap, and on the 21st to within four miles of Pottsgrove, the enemy’s van then being at French’s Creek upon the west side of the Schuylkill. In the night of the 22d, advice was received that the enemy had crossed Schuylkill at Gordon’s Ford, below us, but the account was again contradicted; but in the morning of the 23d certain accounts came to hand that they really had crossed in large numbers, and were moving towards Philadelphia.”—Washington’s Statement to Council of Officers, 23 September, 1777.
[1 ]“The action which happened on the 11th near Chadsford, on the Brandywine, you will have heard of. I have not time to give you the particulars. A contrariety of Intelligence, in a critical and important point, contributed greatly if it did not entirely bring on the misfortunes of that day. The action however was warm and I am convinced, the Enemy’s loss was considerable and much superior to ours. After this affair and refreshing our Troops a few days, I determined to try a second action. For this purpose, I advanced with the Army as soon as it was in a situation and was pushing to gain the grounds on their left. I believe we should have effected it, and if not a general attack would have been made on their Front, had not my views unfortunately been totally frustrated by a most severe rain which came on, the day preceeding that of the intended action. This obliged us to change our Rout, and continuing with great violence till late in the night, rendered our Arms unfit for use and destroyed almost all the ammunition in the men’s pouches, who were out and exposed during the whole time. Genl. Howe in two days after fell down towards Schuylkill near the Valley forge. We did the same, and passed with the main body of the Army above, and marching down, took post in his Front, while a part of our Force was left to hang on his Rear. In this situation matters remained a day or two when the Enemy extended themselves up the river, as if they meant to turn our Right and, countermarching in the night crossed some miles below us; The River being fordable in almost every part. They have advanced towards the city, and were from the last advices at and about Germantown. It is probable some of their Parties have entered the city and their whole Army may, if they incline to do it, without our being able to prevent them. Here I must remark, that our distress for want of shoes, is almost beyond conception and that from this circumstance our operations and pursuit have been impracticable. I am taking every measure to obtain a supply, and I hope to be able to move in a short time especially when we are joined by some Reinforcements that are coming on, and that under the favor of heaven, our affairs will assume a more agreeable aspect, than they now have.”—Washington to Brigadier-General Nelson, 27 September, 1777.
[1 ]General Putnam had formed a plan for a separate attack on the enemy at Staten Island, Paulus Hook, York Island, and Long Island, at the same time. He had obtained accurate knowledge of the enemy’s strength, and Governor Trumbull had encouraged him to expect large reinforcements of militia from Connecticut for this purpose, which, with the Continental forces under his command, and the aids he might procure from New York and New Jersey, he believed would enable him to execute his design.—MS. Letter, September 13th. The above order from General Washington put an end to the project.
[1 ]To this letter General Gates replied:—“Since the action of the 19th ultimo, the enemy have kept the ground they occupied the morning of that day, and fortified their camp. The advanced sentries of my pickets are posted within shot, and opposite the enemy’s. Neither side has given ground an inch. In this situation your Excellency would not wish me to part with the corps the army of General Burgoyne are most afraid of.”—Dated October 5th. This letter was written only two days before the decisive action against Burgoyne, and yet, after that event, General Gates complied tardily with General Washington’s request. Morgan was detained till after the capitulation, when the troops were no longer wanted in the Northern Department.
[1 ]“We are now in motion, and advancing to form a junction with Genl. McDougall. I expect to be joined in a day or two by Genl. Foreman, with fourteen or fifteen hundred Jersey militia. The main body of the enemy are also advancing towards Philadelphia, and were below German Town from my last advices, which also mentioned that a thousand infantry, with about 100 Dragoons, had filed off towards Chesnut Hill. I fear they are pushing for Bristol, after our stores, which I am apprehensive are not entirely removed, tho I gave orders for it, the moment I heard they were there.”—Washington to Elbridge Gerry, 26 September, 1777.
[1 ]On the 28th the main body of the British army were still lying near German-town, and a detachment, it was reported, had marched into Philadelphia. The whole force of the enemy was estimated at 8,000. The Continental force was thus outlined by Washington in the Council of the 28th: McDougall, with about 900 men had joined the army; Smallwood had also come in with about 1,100 of the Maryland militia; Forman, with about 600 of the Jersey militia was on the Skippack road, and near the main body. The number of Continental troops in camp, fit for duty, exclusive of the detachment under McDougall, and that under Wayne at the Trap, was 5,472, to which was to be added Maxwell’s light corps (about 450), and the Pennsylvania militia under Armstrong. Upon the whole the army would consist of about 8,000 Continental troops rank and file. and 3,000 militia. About 2,000 badly equipped militia from Virginia were on their march to camp, a part having already reached Lancaster, and reinforcements had been ordered from Peekskill. The Council decided against an immediate attack on the enemy, and that the army should move to a proper camp about twelve miles from the enemy to await reinforcements and a more fitting opportunity to attack. Smallwood, Wayne, Potter, Irvine, and Scott were of opinion that the American force was of sufficient strength to act offensively; but they were overruled by McDougall, Sullivan, Knox, Greene, Nash, Muhlenberg, Stirling, Conway, Stephen, and Armstrong. General Cadwalader and Joseph Reed were present at the Council.
[1 ]“The prosperous complexion of our Northern affairs is a very pleasing and important circumstance. It is much to be wished they may continue in the same train, and have as favorable an issue as they seem now to promise. If they have besides the more immediate advantages that will accrue from the disappointing the views of the enemy in that quarter, it will necessarily have a happy influence upon our affairs here. . . .
[2 ]“The urgent necessity that the stores should be immediately secured forbids our being over-scrupulous in providing the means of doing it. If the civil power will not aid you with energy in getting wagons, you must not want them on that account, but must make a good use of the means you have, and get them at all events. Punctilios, in this emergency, must not hinder our doing whatever is essential to the good of the service.”—Washington to Col. J. Mifflin, 1 October, 1777.
[1 ]As soon as the British had taken possession of Philadelphia they erected three batteries near the river to protect the city against such American shipping and craft as might approach the town. On the 26th of September, before the batteries were finished, Commodore Hazelwood, by the advice of a council of officers, ordered two frigates, the Delaware and Montgomery, each of twenty-four guns, the sloop Fly, and several galleys and gondolas, to move up to Philadelphia, and commence a cannonade on the town, should the enemy persist in erecting fortifications. The Delaware anchored within five hundred yards of the batteries, and the other vessels took such stations as were suited to their object. At ten o’clock on the morning of the 27th the cannonade began, but on the falling of the tide the Delaware grounded. In this disabled condition the guns from the batteries soon compelled her colors to be struck, and she was taken by the enemy. A schooner was likewise driven on shore, but the other frigate and small craft returned to their former station near the fort. The suspicion that the crew mutinied was never confirmed, nor was there any such hint in the British commander’s despatch describing the event.—Commodore Hazelwood’s Instructions to Captain Alexander, September 26.—Sir William Howe’s Letter to Lord George Germaine, October 10th.—Sparks.
[1 ]Pickering says “the old Egypt or Schuylkill road.”
[1 ]Washington himself was with the right wing.
[1 ]The letter from General Howe, to which this is an answer, was in the following words:
“Head-Quarters, 3 October, 1777.
“Your parties having destroyed several mills in the adjacent country, which can only distress the peaceable inhabitants residing in their houses, I am constrained from a regard to their sufferings, and a sense of the duty I owe to the public, to forewarn you of the calamities which may ensue, and to express my abhorrence of such a proceeding. At the same time I am inclined to believe, that the outrages already committed have not been in consequence of your orders, and that this early notice will engage you to put an effectual stop to them. If not, I do in the most direct terms disclaim any share in creating the general scene of distress among the inhabitants, which such destruction must inevitably cause. With due respect, I am, &c.
[1 ]It is interesting to observe, that, in the midst of solemn and important affairs, and the forms of official station, there was room for courtesy and civil acts in small things. The following note was sent on the same day that the above letter was written, and they probably were both forwarded with the same flag.
[1 ]General Washington wrote on the 7th, to Governor Trumbull:—“Having obtained information of the situation of the enemy, we determined to endeavor to do something by way of surprise. We accordingly marched all night, and reached the town by break of day. We attacked them upon two quarters, upon both of which we were successful. But the morning was so exceedingly foggy, that we could not see the confusion the enemy were in, and the advantage we had gained; and, fearing to push too far through a strong village, we retired, after an engagement of two hours, bringing off all our artillery with us. We did not know, till after the affair was over, how near we were to gaining a complete victory; but we have since learnt from deserters and others, who have come out, that preparations were making to retreat to Chester. While the action lasted, it was pretty severe. Our loss will amount, in killed and wounded, to upwards of three hundred.” This estimate of the loss was founded on loose returns. In writing to his brother, on the 17th of October, General Washington described the loss as being about one thousand men, in killed, wounded, and missing. General Howe, in his official despatch, stated the American loss to be between two and three hundred killed, about six hundred wounded, and upwards of four hundred taken. This is doubtless an exaggeration.
[1 ]On September 23d Washington appointed Baron d’Arendt to the command of Fort Island. “It is of the utmost importance,” he wrote, “to prevent the enemy’s land forces and fleet from forming a junction, which it is almost morally certain they will attempt by seizing on Fort Island below Philadelphia, if it is possible, and thereby gain the navigation of the Delaware by weighing and removing the chevaux-de-frise, which have been sunk for that purpose. This post (Fort Island), if maintained, will be of the last consequence, and will effectually hinder them from union. . . . The defence is extremely interesting to the United States.” Illness prevented the Baron’s accepting the appointment, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Smith.
[1 ]“We shall have a large reinforcement from the Northward and Southward in a day, or two, and you may assure the officers of the Army and Navy that no time shall be lost in following our Blow effectually and thereby giving relief to all our posts. I think this may be so much sooner effected by keeping our whole force together and acting powerfully with them, that I shall pursue that Course rather than detach a part to operate against their detachments. For you must be very sensible that if their Main Body is defeated their small parties must fall of course. I beg you will communicate this letter to the Gentlemen of the Navy and let them see how much depends upon their brave opposition to the last moment.”—Washington to Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, 7 October, 1777.
[1 ]Commodore Hazelwood acted under a commission from Pennsylvania, and originally commanded only the armed vessels belonging to that State. But the Continental shipping in the Delaware was now likewise put under his command. This caused some uneasiness on the part of the Continental navy officers, and occasional want of harmony.
[2 ]A young French officer of great merit, appointed by Congress a captain of artillery in the American service.
[1 ]“The situation of the army frequently not admitting of the regular performance of divine service on Sundays, the chaplains of the army are forthwith to meet together and agree on some method of performing it at other times, which method they will make known to the Commander-in-chief.”—Orderly Book, 7 October, 1777.
[1 ]General Potter was ordered across the Schuylkill, with a force of about 600 militia, to interrupt the enemy’s intercourse between Philadelphia and Chester, cutting off the convoys, and intercepting the despatches passing between the army and their shipping; and “in a word, to give them all the annoyance and disturbance he can.”
[1 ]“Promotions in consequence of the late deaths and resignations will now take place as a reward to the merit of deserving officers. . . . Officers who are under the imputation of cowardice, or whose characters in other respects are impeachable, are to be noted; as the General is determined to discriminate between the good and bad. This order is to be confined to promotion. No new appointments will take place at this time owing to the weak state of the regiments.”—Orderly Book, 10 October, 1777.
[2 ]The enemy erected a battery, on the 9th of September, at the mouth of the Schuylkill, to secure the passage at Webb’s Ferry. Commodore Hazelwood sent several galleys to attack the battery, which was silenced in a short time. In the night of the 10th the enemy crossed Webb’s Ferry and erected a redoubt opposite the fort, within two musket-shots of the blockhouse. As soon as the redoubt was discovered in the morning, the Commodore despatched three galleys and a floating battery to attack it; which was so well executed, that one lieutenant, one ensign, and fifty-six privates were compelled to surrender themselves prisoners of war.—Hazelwood’s MS. Letter, October 11th. Before leaving this, Washington proposed to lay the country under water by cutting the meadow banks.
[1 ]Information had at different times been conveyed to Congress, that the prisoners in Philadelphia were compelled to labor, and were employed in throwing up works in the neighborhood of the city. Congress thought it incumbent on them to inquire into the truth of the report, and directed that a flag should be immediately despatched to General Howe for that purpose.—President Hancock’s Letter, October 12th.
[1 ]“The General congratulates the troops upon this signal victory, the third capital advantage, which under divine Providence, we have gained in that quarter; and hopes it will prove a powerful stimulus to the army under his immediate command; at least to equal their northern brethren in brave and intrepid exertions when called thereto. The General wishes them to consider that this is the Grand American Army; and that of course great things are expected from it. ’T is the army of whose superior prowess some have boasted. What shame then and dishonor will attend us, if we suffer ourselves in every instance to be out-done? We have a force sufficient, by the favor of Heaven to crush our foe, and nothing is wanting but a spirited, persevering exertion of it, to which, besides the motives before mentioned, duty and the love of our country irresistibly impel us. The effect of such powerful motives, no man, who possesses the spirit of a soldier can withstand, and spurred on by them, the General assures himself, that on the next occasion his troops will be completely successful.”—Orderly Book, 15 October, 1777. “The General has his happiness completed relative to the successes of our northern army . . . Let every face brighten, and every heart expand with grateful joy and praise to the Supreme Disposer of all events, who has granted us this signal success.”—Orderly Book, 18 October, 1777.
[1 ]This letter “contained in substance, an abjuration of all his former opinions, but severe and illiberal animadversions on Congress, and the leaders in the cause of freedom, censuring alike their motives and conduct. Washington, he said, was the only person who had power to stop the current, which was fast hurrying the country to inevitable ruin; and on him he called, in the voice of entreaty and almost of admonition, to ‘represent to Congress the indispensable necessity of rescinding the hasty and ill-advised Declaration of Independency.’ ”—Sparks, Washington merely enclosed the letter to Congress, where many copies were taken. “I never intended to make the letter more public than by laying it before Congress. I thought this a duty, which I owed to myself; for, had any accident happened to the army entrusted to my command, and it had ever afterwards appeared that such a letter had been written to and received by me, might it not have been said, that I had betrayed my country? and would not such a correspondence, if kept a secret, have given good grounds for the suspicion?”—Washington to Francis Hopkinson, 21 November, 1777. More than five years later Duché, in seeking to pave a way for his return to America, gave an explanation of his conduct:—
[1 ]“It is my earnest request that you immediately collect all the men you possibly can, and send them on as fast as any considerable number can be got together, under good officers, to join this army. As you will remain to march with the last detachment, I wish you to use all your influence and interest with your legislative body, that they may give you all the assistance they can in the completion of this necessary object. You can urge with great justice that as long as Genl. Howe’s army has an existence, the adjacent counties will eternally be subject to depredations, nor can any thing prevent it, but such a union and co-operation of the people as will effectually reduce him; to attain which happy end, a better opportunity than the present never presented itself . . . Another reason occurs why it is the true interest of your state to give us every aid upon the present occasion, which is, that if the enemy can once bring up their shipping and get the city secured and fortified for winter quarters, it will be so much in their power to make constant incursions into the Jerseys, that you will be either obliged to submit to repeated heavy losses by being between two fires, or keep your militia on foot thro’ the severity of the winter.”—Washington to General Forman, 16 October, 1777.
[1 ]Mr. Lee replied: “I was a good deal surprised to find you had been told Congress had appointed General Conway a major-general. No such appointment has been made, nor do I believe it will, whilst it is likely to produce the evil consequences you suggest. It is very true, that, both within and without doors, there have been advocates for the measure, and it has been affirmed, that it would be very agreeable to the army, whose favorite Mr. Conway was asserted to be. My judgment on this business was not formed until I received your letter. I am very sure Congress would not take any step that might injure the army, or even have a tendency that way; and I verily believe they wish to lessen your difficulties by every means in their power, from an entire conviction that the purest motives of public good direct your actions.
[1 ]Lieutenant-Colonel John Green of Virginia, with a detachment of two hundred men. Col. Angell and his regiment had been ordered to Red Bank on the 16th. “As there seems to be a doubt of the priority of the date of your or Lieutenant-Colonel Green’s commissions, I have in a letter of this date desired him to wave the matter in dispute for the present, and act under your command, as you have been in the fort from the beginning, and must be better acquainted with the nature of the defences than a stranger.”—Washington to Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, 28 October, 1777.
[1 ]“Your letter of the 18th instant I received last night, wherein I find you express a desire to be recalled from Fort Mifflin to join your corps. I found it absolutely necessary to reinforce your garrison, and that it was impracticable to do it consistently, without superseding you. This determined me to send the Baron d’Arendt, as the person originally mentioned to you to command there; but I would have omitted it, (after you had remained some time in command,) had not the additional detachment been judged expedient for the defence of so important a post. This I mention, that you may be satisfied of the real motives in this transaction, and that a desire to supersede you had no influence in it; but on the contrary, your conduct and exertions, since the commencement of your command there, have been such as merit my approbation and thanks. I now leave it to your own option, whether to rejoin your corps, or continue where you are; and have no doubt but you will determine upon that which, in your opinion, is most serviceable and consistent with the character of an officer.”—Washington to Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Smith, 22 October, 1777.
[1 ]“I congratulate you upon the glorious success of our arms to the northward. The complete captivity of Burgoyne and his army exceeds our most sanguine expectations. I have not yet heard of Sir Henry Clinton’s falling down the North River again, but I imagine he will not remain there after he has heard of Burgoyne’s destruction.”—Washington to Major-General Heath, 22 October, 1777.
[2 ]After the British had captured Fort Montgomery, and the other posts on the Hudson, General Putnam retreated from Peekskill, and established his head-quarters at Fishkill beyond the Highlands. He wrote to General Washington from Fishkill: “Last Monday General Parsons, with about two thousand troops, marched down and took possession of Peekskill, and the passes in the Highlands. He has taken a number of cattle, horses, and sheep, which were collected by the enemy. They had burnt the buildings and barracks at the Continental Village, and several dwelling-houses and other buildings at Peekskill. They have demolished Forts Montgomery and Constitution, and are repairing Fort Clinton. Yesterday about forty sail passed up the river crowded with troops, and are at anchor above Poughkeepsie, the wind not favoring. We were on our march after them when I met the agreeable intelligence of the surrender of General Burgoyne and his army as prisoners of war, a copy of which is enclosed. I thereupon most sincerely congratulate your Excellency. I have halted my troops, and am now considering what ought to be my movement; I have sent to Governor Clinton for his opinion, and ordered General Parsons to spare no pains to find out the situation and strength of the garrison at Kingsbridge, in order to direct my future operations most advantageously. I have about six thousand troops, who are chiefly militia. I understand that General Campbell was killed at Fort Montgomery, and several field-officers and others of inferior rank. The two Continental frigates and the row-galley were burnt, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy, for which I am very sorry, as one of them I believe might have been saved.”—MS. Letter, October 16th.
[1 ]There is probably an error here, in regard to the identity of the persons. Sir Henry Clinton, in his official return of the killed and wounded, gives the name of “Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell of the fifty-second regiment.” There was a General Campbell in the British army at that time; but General Dickinson, in a letter dated November 18th, states that he was then on Staten Island. Whence it would follow that he could not have been the same person that was killed at Fort Montgomery.—Sparks
[1 ]“The fogginess of the morning is so very great that I think it probable that the enemy will attempt a surprise upon Fort Mifflin at such a time, or at night, if they mean it at all. To prevent this, I would recommend it to you to keep boats rowing guard as near the shore of Province Island as they possibly can with safety. . . . The enemy last night evacuated Germantown and fell down to Philadelphia. Our army will advance towards them in the morning, and as we shall be near them, I hope we shall prevent them from detaching any considerable force to reduce Fort Mifflin. I recommended it to Col. Smith to endeavor by all means to keep the breaches in the banks of Province Island open, as I am certain it will incommode them vastly in carrying on their works.”—Washington to Commodore Hazelwood, 19 October, 1777.
[1 ]“It is now above two years since I have had the honor of presiding in Congress, and I should esteem myself happy to have it in my power to render further service to my country in that department; but the decline of health, occasioned by so long and unremitted an application to the duties of my office, both in Congress and out of Congress, joined to the situation of my own private affairs, has at length taught me to think of retiring for two or three months; and I have determined to take my leave the ensuing week, and set out immediately for Boston after this express returns. As the Congress will doubtless proceed to appoint a successor in my stead, on him therefore will devolve the business of the chair. The politeness and attention I have ever experienced from you, in the course of our correspondence, will always be a source of the most pleasing satisfaction to me.”—Hancock to Washington, 17 October, 1777.
[1 ]“Congress have reason to complain of my not making them general returns of the army more frequently, but I hope they will excuse me when they consider that I have not been for some time past two days in a place, and I assure you it sometimes happens that the officers have not paper to make the necessary returns. But I will take the first opportunity of making a full and regular one.”—Washington to Richard Peters, 22 October, 1777.
[1 ]Major Ward’s letter was dated, October 23d.—“By the desire of Colonel Greene,” he wrote, “I congratulate your Excellency on the success of the troops under his command yesterday. On the 21st instant, four battalions of Germans, amounting to about twelve hundred men, commanded by Count Donop, landed at Cooper’s Ferry, and marched the same evening to Haddonfield. At three o’clock yesterday morning they marched for this place. When the guard at Timber Creek Bridge were informed of their approach, they took up that bridge, and the enemy filed off to the left and crossed a bridge four miles above. Their advanced parties were discovered within four miles of the fort at twelve o’clock. At half after four in the afternoon they sent a flag to summon the fort. The reply was, that it should never be surrendered. At three quarters past four they began a brisk cannonade, and soon after advanced in two columns to the attack. They passed the abatis, gained the ditch, and some few got over the pickets; but the fire was so heavy, that they were soon driven out again, with considerable loss; and they retreated precipitately towards Haddonfield. The enemy’s loss amounts to one lieutenant-colonel, three captains, four lieutenants, and near seventy killed; and Count Donop, his brigade-major, a captain, lieutenant, and upwards of seventy non-commissioned officers and privates wounded and taken prisoners. We are also informed, that several wagons are taken. The Colonel proposes to send the wounded officers to Burlington. He also enjoins me to tell your Excellency, that both officers and men behaved with the greatest bravery. The action lasted forty minutes.”
[1 ]“I heartily congratulate you upon this happy event, and beg you will accept my most particular thanks, and present the same to your whole garrison, both officers and men. Assure them, that their gallantry and good behavior meet my warmest approbation. All the prisoners should be immediately removed to a distance from your post, to some convenient and safe place. I am sorry you have thought of sending the officers to Burlington, as they would be in no kind of security at that place, but might be taken and carried off by the enemy with the greatest ease. Immediately on the receipt of this, you will be pleased to have all the prisoners both officers and men conveyed to Morristown. The wounded can be accommodated in the hospitals there and in its neighborhood. Count Donop in particular is a man of importance, and ought by all means to be taken care of.”—Washington to Col. Christopher Greene, 24 October, 1777.
[1 ]“Proclamation by his Excellency George Washington, Commander-in-chief of the Forces of the United States of America.—Whereas sundry soldiers belonging to the armies of the said States have deserted from the same; these are to make known to all those, who have so offended, and who shall return to their respective corps, or surrender themselves to the officers appointed to receive recruits and deserters in their several States, or to any Continental commissioned officer, before the first day of January next, that they shall obtain a full and free pardon;—And I do further declare to all such obstinate offenders as do not avail themselves of the indulgence hereby offered, that they may depend, when apprehended, on being prosecuted with the utmost rigor, and suffering the punishment justly due to crimes of such enormity. Lest the hope of escaping punishment, by remaining undiscovered, should tempt any to reject the terms now held out to them, they may be assured, that the most effectual measures will be pursued in every State for apprehending and bringing them to a speedy trial.”—Dated October 24th. This proclamation was issued in obedience to a resolve by Congress.
[1 ]The Council of War was held on the 29th, and Washington laid before it a general account of the situation, stating the strength of the two armies as follows: That the troops under Sir William Howe present and fit for duty amounted, according to the best intelligence he could obtain, to ten thousand rank and file, stationed at Philadelphia and in its immediate vicinity; and that the force under his command, present and fit for duty, was eight thousand three hundred and thirteen Continental troops, and two thousand seven hundred and seventeen militia. There were, in addition, six hundred and fifty Continental troops at Red Bank and Fort Mifflin, and a detachment of three hundred militia on their way to reinforce those posts. A body of five hundred militia under General Potter was likewise on the other side of the Schuylkill. This was his whole force, and it was likely soon to suffer a diminution of nineteen hundred and eighty-six militia, by the expiration of the term of service for which those from Maryland and Virginia had been engaged.
[1 ]When the Congress retired from Philadelphia to York, the Navy Board remained behind, and continued chiefly at Bordentown in New Jersey, where their services could be more immediately rendered in managing the concerns of the Continental shipping in the Delaware.
[1 ]Congress interfered, and directed that the frigates be lightened as much as possible, “and either run into some adjacent creek or hauled as high upon shore as may be without ballast, and a battery constructed with the guns of the Washington on the most convenient ground to cover the frigates from the enemy; that the frigates should be charged properly with combustibles, and a careful watch employed under a vigilant officer to burn them rather than suffer them to fall into the hands of the enemy; and lest this should fail, that a sufficient number of small craft should be sunk in the channel below the frigates, effectually to obstruct the enemy from moving them down the river if they should happen to gain possession of them, and a battery be constructed in the most convenient manner to cover the obstructions and prevent the enemy from removing them; that all the vessels of whatever kind should be run up as high above the batteries aforesaid as possible, and the most effectual precautions taken immediately on the approach of the enemy.”—Journals of Congress, 4 November, 1777. A copy of this resolution was sent to Washington for his approval, and is considered in his letter of November 10th.
[1 ]For a full copy of this letter I am indebted to Dr. John S. H. Fogg, of Boston.
[1 ]The British evacuated Forts Montgomery and Clinton, on the 26th of October, and the same day proceeded down the river with their whole force both of troops and shipping. In a letter from General Putnam to the Commander-in-chief, dated at Fishkill, October 31st, he stated that Poor’s, Warner’s, Learned’s, and Paterson’s brigades, Colonel Van Schaick’s regiment, and Morgan’s riflemen, were on their way from the northward to join him, amounting in the whole to five thousand seven hundred men, which number, added to those already with him, would make his whole force about nine thousand strong, exclusive of Morgan’s corps, the artillery-men, and the militia from Connecticut and New York. The militia had been mostly discharged. General Warner’s brigade consisted of sixteen hundred Massachusetts militia, whose time of service was to expire at the end of November.
[1 ]General Gates wrote a very short letter to Washington, on the 2d of November, and of course before this could have reached him, giving notice that Morgan’s corps had been sent to the southward. He added, apparently as a matter of secondary consequence: “Congress having been requested immediately to transmit copies of all my despatches to them, I am confident your Excellency has long ago received all the good news from this quarter.” These words contain the only intelligence, which was transmitted to the Commander-in-chief by General Gates, respecting the defeat of Burgoyne, and the convention of Saratoga.
[1 ]Newcomb had failed to make any return of his men, or to undertake any duty.
[1 ]“The recruiting of our Continental battalions is a thing of so much importance that I wish it were in my power to point out a mode which would fully answer the end. To attempt to enlist upon the bounty allowed by Congress is fruitless, as the amazing sums given for substitutes in the militia, induces all those who would otherwise have gone into the Continental service to prefer a line in which neither duty or discipline is severe, and in which they have a chance of having the bounty repeated three or four times a year. To this fatal source is owing the ill success of recruiting from one end of the continent to the other.”—Washington to Governor Henry, 13 November, 1777.
[1 ]After the British had removed the chevaux-de-frise at Fort Montgomery and Fort Constitution, they passed up the river with several armed vessels commanded by Sir James Wallace, and a body of troops under General Vaughan. They burnt such shipping as they found in the river, and also houses and mills on the shore. At Esopus, on the 15th of October, a party landed, led on by General Vaughan himself, and burnt the village of Kingston. So complete was the destruction, that not more than one house escaped the flames. The reason he gave for this act was, that the people fired from the houses upon his men. He then went on board, and passed up as high as Livingston’s Manor, where he likewise burnt several private dwellings and mills. Gordon says, that the people of Kingston did not fire from their houses upon the British troops.—History, vol. ii., p. 579. It had been agreed between General Putnam and Governor Clinton, that, during these operations of the enemy, they should move up the river with their respective forces, the former on the east side and the latter on the west, to prevent their landing and committing ravages in the country; and also to be at hand to fall upon their rear, in case they should proceed to Albany, and attempt to succor Burgoyne. When the news of the Convention of Saratoga reached General Vaughan, he retreated down the river, and soon after to New York. General Putnam had advanced with his army as far as Red Hook, but immediately returned to Fishkill. He appears to have had a strong tendency towards New York, even after the enemy had ascended above the Highlands, and wrote in that temper to General Gates, who replied:
“It is certainly right to collect your whole force, and push up the east side of the river after the enemy. You may be sure they have nothing they care for in New York. Then why should you attack an empty town, which you know to be untenable the moment they bring their men of war against it? Yesterday General Burgoyne proposed to surrender upon the enclosed terms. The capitulation will, I believe, be settled to-day, when I shall have nothing but General Clinton to think of. If you keep pace with him on one side, the Governor on the other, and I in his front, I cannot see how he is to get home again.”—MS. Letter, October 15th.
Four days after the capture of Fort Montgomery, a spy was brought to Governor Clinton, then at New Windsor, who was seen to swallow a silver bullet. It was recovered by a prescription of tartar emetic, and found to be hollow, and to contain within its cavity the following brief message from Sir Henry Clinton to Burgoyne, dated at Fort Montgomery, October 8th.
“Nous y voici, and nothing now between us but Gates. I sincerely hope this little success of ours may facilitate your operations. In answer to your letter of the 28th of September by C. C. I shall only say, I cannot presume to order, or even advise, for reasons obvious. I heartily wish you success. Faithfully yours.
Fort Montgomery was denominated Fort Vaughan by the British, during the twenty days that it was in their possession.—Sparks.
[1 ]“As soon as the Schuylkill is fordable, I shall send over a large body of militia to you, for the purpose of executing some particular matters. The principal are, to endeavor to break up the road by which the enemy have a communication with their shipping over the Islands, if it is practicable, and to remove the running stones from the mills in the neighborhood of Chester and Wilmington. This last I would have you undertake immediately with your present force, as I have information that the enemy are about making a detachment to Wilmington, probably with an intent to take post there, and secure the use of the mills.”—Washington to General Potter, 31 October, 1777.
[1 ]“The enemy’s boats pass and repass at night, carry supplies from the shipping to the town, and meet with no interruption. The cannon of the fort cannot be brought to bear upon them; random firing would be a waste of precious ammunition. The galleys alone can be opposed to their passage, which has been hitherto effected between Province Island and Fort Mifflin, under cover of darkness. What this inactivity of the galleys is owing to is unknown; some attribute it to the jealousy which commonly subsists between the officers of the naval and land service—a vitious spirit which should not be known in Republics.”—John Laurens to his father, 5 November, 1777.
[1 ]“I am favored with yours of the 27th ulto. and am glad to find that the enemy have fallen entirely down to New York. By their doing this, and sending away a reinforcement to General Howe, it is evident that they have done with all thoughts of attempting any thing further to the Northward. Having lost one army, it is certainly their interest and intention to make the other as respectable as possible, and as their force is now nearly drawn together at one point, in Philadelphia, it is undoubtedly our plan to endeavor by an union of our forces to destroy General Howe.”—Washington to Putnam, 4 November, 1777. To keep as large a body of the British at New York as possible, Washington directed General Dickinson to make a feint in that direction.
[1 ]“Now if they sail in December, they may arrive time enough to take the places of others who may be out in May, which is as early as a Campaign can be well entered upon. I look upon it that their principal difficulty will arise from the want of a stock of provision for the voyage, and, therefore, although I would supply them with rations agreeable to stipulation, I would not furnish an ounce for sea store, or suffer it to be purchased in the country.”—Washington to Heath, 5 November, 1777.
[1 ]“This morning a heavy cannonading was heard from below and continued till afternoon; from the top of Chew’s house in German Town to which place the General took a ride this morning, we could discover nothing more than thick clouds of smoak, and the masts of two vessels, the weather being very hazy.”—John Laurens to his father, 5 November, 1777. It was an affair between the Somerset, Roebuck, and one other British vessel, and the American galleys.
[1 ]See Appendix.
[2 ]Henry Laurens was chosen President of Congress on the 1st of November, as the successor of President Hancock.
[1 ]Journals of Congress, 4 November, 1777.
[2 ]“Since the engagement at Germantown no material alteration has happened in the situation of the two armies. General Howe has withdrawn himself close within his lines round Philadelphia, and we have fallen down with the main body of the army to this place, about 13 miles from Philadelphia. Our light parties are much nearer and cut off all communication between the country and city. I am in daily expectation of a reinforcement from the northern army, and General Howe has drawn the principal part of his force from New York. Happy would it be for the liberties of this country could a sufficient head of men be suddenly collected to give a fatal blow to the remainder of her oppressors now drawn together in such a situation that it would be impossible to make a retreat after the Delaware is rendered unnavigable by frost.”—Washington to Governor Henry, 13 November, 1777.
[1 ]Kosciuszko was appointed an engineer in the Continental service, October 18, 1776, and had been constantly employed in the Northern Department, first at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, and afterwards in the army of Generals Schuyler and Gates. He planned the encampment for the American army at Bemus Heights; and he was afterwards the principal engineer in executing the military works at West Point.
[1 ]“I would not wish to be partial to any part of the army; I only desire that when goods are ordered particularly to one department, that they may not be detained in another, and I must insist that this rule be invariably observed in future. You are to consider that almost the whole of our cloathing comes from the Eastward, consequently the stopping such parts as are intended for this army after a due proportion is allotted to the other departments, is highly injurious to the service. With truth it may be added that we have at this time upwards of 2000 men rendered unfit for service for want of cloaths.”—Washington to Major-General Putnam, 11 November, 1777.
[1 ]“I am sorry to find from yours of yesterday, that the fire of the Enemy had made so great an impression upon the works of Fort Mifflin, that you thought an evacuation would be necessary. As I have not yet heard that the measure was determined upon, I hope it is not carried into execution. If it is not, it is the unanimous opinion of a Council of General officers, now sitting, that the Fort be held to the last extremity, and to enable the Commanding officer to do this, that you immediately withdraw all the invalids and fatigued men and fill up their places with the most fresh and robust, and that the troops in garrison be often exchanged that they may by that means obtain rest. It seems a settled point, that the Enemy will not storm, while the Works are kept in tolerable repair and there is an appearance of force upon the Island, and I therefore would have you endeavor to prevail upon the Militia to go over at night, when there is cessation of firing and work till day light. You may give them the most positive assurances that it is not meant to keep them there against their consent. This would greatly relieve the Continental Troops, and by these means a great deal of work might be done. We are now thinking if there is any possibility of attacking the Enemy in reverse and thereby raising the Seige, if it can be done with any probability of success.”—Washington to General Varnum, one o’clock, 12 November, 1777.
[1 ]“I last night received your favor of the 10th instant, and am sorry to find the enemy’s batteries had played with such success against our works. Nevertheless, I hope they will not oblige you to evacuate them. They are of the last importance, and I trust will be maintained to the latest extremity. I have written to General Varnum to afford you immediate succor, by sending fresh troops to relieve those now in garrison, and also such numbers of militia, as he may be able to prevail on to go to your assistance. With these, every exertion should be used for repairing in the night whatever damage the works may sustain in the day. The militia are principally designed for this end, and they are to be permitted to return every morning to Red Bank, if such shall be their choice. General Varnum will furnish all the fascines and palisades he can. You may rest assured, that I will adopt every means, our situation will admit of, to give you relief.”—Washington to Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, 12 November, 1777.
[1 ]“It has occurred to me, that should Sir William Howe still obstinately refuse to settle any equitable cartel for the exchange of prisoners, that Congress would be justified, in ordering the fulfilling the Convention of Saratoga to be delayed, until the United States received justice in that particular. At any rate, there will be very few of Genl. Burgoyne’s soldiers to embark, as most of the Germans, and a great many of the British, have deserted upon their march towards Boston, and many more will yet desert.”—Gates to the President of Congress, 10 November, 1777.
[1 ]General Conway had the day before sent his commission to Congress, and he gave as a reason to General Washington, that a longer stay in America would endanger his rank and hopes of promotion in France, adding: “Although I leave the continent, I shall ever cherish the cause for which I fought; and, if the plan I sent to Congress is accepted, I hope I shall serve the cause more effectually in another part of the world.” What this plan was he does not intimate; nor is it apparent from the journals that Congress accepted his resignation, though it would seem that he retired from the army. He wrote at the same time a long, complaining, boastful, and somewhat impudent letter to Mr. Charles Carroll, which was meant for Congress, and was accordingly read in that assembly. In that letter he said: “Seven weeks ago several gentlemen wrote to me from the seat of Congress, mentioning the very extraordinary discourses held by you, Sir, by Mr. Lovell, Mr. Duer, and some other members, on account of my applying for the rank of major-general. If I had hearkened to well grounded resentment, I should undoubtedly have left the army instantly.”
[1 ]“The Generals St. Clair, Knox and Kalb returned to Camp this Evening, they are all clear in their opinions that keeping possession of the Jersey shore at or near Red Bank is of the last importance. I have therefore determined to make such an addition to the Reinforcement that marched this morning under Genl. Huntingdon that I am in hopes you will be able to give an effectual Check to the force which the Enemy at present have in Jersey. Genl. Greene will take the command of the Reinforcement—Very much will depend upon keeping possession of Fort Mercer, as to reduce it the Enemy will be obliged to put themselves in a very disagreeable situation to them and advantageous to us, upon a narrow neck of land between two Creeks, with our whole force passing upon their Rear. Therefore desire Colonel Green to hold it if possible till the relief arrives.”—Washington to General Varnum, 19 November, 1777.
[1 ]For six days preceding the evacuation of Fort Mifflin, the fire from the enemy’s batteries and shipping had been incessant. Major Fleury kept a journal of events, which was daily forwarded to General Washington, and from which the following are extracts.—“November 10th, at noon. I am interrupted by the bombs and balls, which fall thickly. The firing increases, but not the effect; our barracks alone suffer. Two o’clock; the direction of the fire is changed; our palisades suffer; a dozen of them are broken down; one of our cannon is damaged; I am afraid it will not fire straight. Eleven o’clock at night; the enemy keep up a firing every half hour. Our garrison diminishes; our soldiers are overwhelmed with fatigue.—11th. The enemy keep up a heavy fire; they have changed the direction of their embrasures and instead of battering our palisades in front, they take them obliquely and do great injury to our north side. At night; the enemy fire and interrupt our works. Three vessels have passed up between us and Province Island without any molestation from the galleys. Colonel Smith, Captain George, and myself wounded. Those two gentlemen passed immediately to Red Bank.—12th. Heavy firing; our two eighteen-pounders at the northern battery dismounted. At night; the enemy throw shells, and we are alarmed by thirty boats.—13th. The enemy have opened a battery on the old Ferry Wharf; the walk of our rounds is destroyed, the block-houses ruined. Our garrison is exhausted with fatigue and ill health.—14th. The enemy have kept up a firing upon us part of the night. Daylight discovers to us a floating battery placed a little above their grand battery and near the shore. Seven o’clock; the enemy keep up a great fire from their floating battery and the shore; our block-houses are in a pitiful condition. At noon; we have silenced the floating battery. A boat, which this day deserted from the fleet, will have given the enemy sufficient intimation of our weakness; they will probably attempt a lodgment on the Island, which we cannot prevent with our present strength.”
[1 ]That is, Russian troops to join the British army. At the beginning of the war, the British government had strong expectations of obtaining military aid from Russia. This hope, however, was soon defeated. The following are extracts from letters written by the Earl of Dartmouth to General Howe:—
[1 ]On Colonel Hamilton’s return from Albany, after executing his mission to General Gates, he found, when he arrived at New Windsor, that General Putnam had not sent forward such reinforcements to General Washington, as were expected. General Putnam seems to have had a special reluctance to part with these troops, probably in consequence of his favorite project against New York. Colonel Hamilton’s letter was pointed and authoritative.
[1 ]Brown had come out from Philadelphia “without a flag or pass from any general or officer in the service of the United States, pretending that he is charged with a verbal message to Congress from General Howe.” Deeming such conduct good evidence of his being “employed by the enemy for purposes inimical to these states,” Congress directed his arrest.—Journals of Congress, 18 November, 1777.
[1 ]The remainder of Morgan’s corps was rendered unfit to march by the want of shoes. There was much suffering in the army generally on this account. The following is an extract from the Orderly Book.
[1 ]From Greene, Life of Nathanael Greene, i., 529.
[1 ]Mr. Arthur Lee’s embassy to the court of Berlin did not turn out to be so successful as was anticipated. He received fair words and civil treatment, but little else. See his letters on the subject, in the Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, vol. ii., pp. 65, 68, 70, 76, 87, 103, 197.
[1 ]The Marquis de Lafayette was not yet entirely recovered from his wound, and had only joined the army just in time to engage in this expedition as a volunteer. At his request, General Greene gave him permission to reconnoiter Lord Cornwallis, and make an attack if circumstances would warrant it. Cornwallis was then in the act of sending his troops across the river at Gloucester. In reconnoitring, Lafayette advanced so near the enemy, that he was discovered on a sandy point near the mouth of a creek, which empties itself into the Delaware at Gloucester. A small detachment of dragoons was sent off to intercept him, which he saw across the creek. His guide was frightened, but soon became sufficiently collected to direct him into a back path, which took him out of the reach of the dragoons, before they could advance to the bridge. He was obliged, also, to pass within musket-shot of an out-post; but he escaped uninjured, and joined his detachment.
[1 ]“I have sent Mr. Boudinot to examine into the state and wants of the prisoners, who are in Philadelphia, and request that he may obtain your permission for the same. He will also have an opportunity of agreeing with your commissary, upon the form and terms of parole for the officers to be mutually released, which I presume may not be improper, in order to prevent any misunderstanding on that head. Passports shall be granted for the commissaries or quartermasters you may appoint to carry supplies to the prisoners in our hands, when you choose to apply for them. Two will only be necessary; one for the person assigned to go to the eastward, the other for the officer having supplies for the prisoners in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Mr. Boudinot will also inform your commissary of the proportion of prisoners in each quarter. . . .
[2 ]In writing to his brother, November 26th, General Washington said: “Had the reinforcement from the northward arrived but ten days sooner, it would, I think, have put it in my power to save Fort Mifflin, which defended the chevaux-de-frise; and consequently have rendered Philadelphia a very ineligible situation for them this winter. They have also received a reinforcement from New York, but not quite so large, I believe, as ours. With truth I may add, that, till within these few days, I have never (notwithstanding the numbers given me by the world, and which it was not my interest to contradict) had so many men in the field, under my immediate command, as General Howe has had under his, although we have fought him twice, and prevented him hitherto from obtaining other advantages, than that of possessing himself of the city; which, but for the eclat it is attended with, brings no solid advantage to their arms. The militia, which have been called upon in aid of our troops (Continental I mean), have come out in such a manner, that, before you could get a second class of them, the first were always gone; by which means, although the sound of them was great, you never could increase your real numbers and strength.”
[1 ]General Greene remained a week only in Jersey. His troops were already recrossing the Delaware at Burlington, on their way to the main army, when the above letter was written. As Fort Mercer had been evacuated, and all the posts on the river given up, and as Lord Cornwallis with his detachment had crossed over to Philadelphia, there was no longer any object to be gained by a large force in Jersey. General Washington’s intelligence, as to the designs of the enemy, was well founded. In a despatch to the minister, dated November 27th, Sir William Howe said: “A forward movement against the enemy will immediately take place, and I hope will be attended with the success, that is due to the spirit and activity of his Majesty’s troops.”—Parliamentary Register, vol. xi., p. 440.
[1 ]General Washington wrote at the same time to Governor Clinton, with a good deal of solicitude, on this subject. “General Gates was directed by Congress,” he remarked, “to turn his views to this matter; but, from some proceedings, that have just come to hand, he may be employed in the Board of War, if it should be his choice. Should this be the case, nothing would be more pleasing to me, and I am convinced nothing would more advance the interest of the States, than for you to take the chief direction and superintendence of this business; and I shall be happy if the affairs of government will permit you. If they will, you may rest assured, that no aid in my power to afford you shall be withheld, and there are no impediments on the score of delicacy or superior command, that shall not be removed.” To this proposal, Governor Clinton replied: “The legislature of this State [New York] is to meet on the 5th of next month. The variety of important business to be prepared for their consideration, and other affairs of government, will employ so great a part of my time, that I should not be able to give that attention to the works for the security of the river, which their importance, and the short time in which they ought to be completed, require. But you may rest assured, Sir, that every leisure hour shall be faithfully devoted to them, and my advice and assistance shall not on any consideration be withheld from the person, who shall be intrusted with the chief direction.”—MS. Letter, December 20th. The same letter contains several important hints respecting the construction of new works on the river, and he especially recommends, that a “strong fortress should be erected at West Point, opposite to Fort Constitution.” This was probably the first suggestion, from any official source, which led to the fortifying of that post.
[1 ]“I hope the exertions of our Friends in your House of Assembly will be attended with the desired effect. Unless we can fill our Regiments against the next Campaign, I very much fear that all our past labors will have been in vain, for unless a war with France should divert the attention of Great Britain, I am convinced she will strain every nerve to make up for the disappointment and losses of this Campaign. And altho’ from many of our late accounts it should seem as if a war was inevitable, we ought not to count upon that score, but make our preparations as if we were to depend solely upon our own bottoms.
[1 ]On November 28th, Robert Morris, Elbridge Gerry, and Joseph Jones were appointed a committee of Congress, to go to headquarters, and “in a private confidential consultation with General Washington, to consider of the best and most practicable means for carrying on a winter’s campaign with vigor and success—an object which Congress has much at heart.”—Journals, 28 November, 1777. A letter written by the committee to Washington, dated at Whitemarsh, 10 December, 1777 (in Morris’ MS) is important:—“Among them any reasons offered against a winter’s campaign we were sorry to observe one of the most prevalent was a general discontent in the army, and especially among the officers. These discontents are ascribed to various causes, and we doubt not many of them are well founded and deserve particular attention, and in the course of the present winter, will be taken into consideration by Congress, and we hope effectually remedied. That a reform may take place in the army, and proper discipline be introduced, we wish to see the military placed on such a footing as may make a commission a desirable object to the officer, and his rank preserved from degradation and contempt; for these purposes we intend to recommend to Congress: That an half pay establishment be formed and adopted in the American service; That a pensionary establishment take place in favor of officers’ widows; That a new regulation of rank, confining it as far as possible to the line of the army be adopted; That an equitable mode of paying for back rations be ordered. Should these several regulations be approved and established by Congress (and we have reason to suppose they will), we trust the prevailing discontents will subside and a spirit of emulation take place among the gentlemen of the army to promote the public service and introduce that order and discipline amongst the troops so essential to the military character. As a further inducement the committee have it also in contemplation to propose in Congress that the officers be permitted to dispose of their commissions under such regulations as may render the measure eligible.” The Committee formally reported to Congress the need of completing the army before an active movement could be made.
[1 ]The officers here mentioned were natives of New Jersey, who entered into the service of the enemy. As this was treason by the law of New Jersey, they were imprisoned, and the Governor considered it his duty to try them in the courts of justice. He conformed to General Washington’s advice, however, and put them on the footing of prisoners of war.
[1 ]In their resolve, respecting the Baron St. Ouary, Congress designated him as “a gallant gentleman from France, engaged as a volunteer in the service of the United States, and lately by the fortune of war made prisoner by the British.” They instructed General Washington to apply for his release, on the ground that volunteers were not to be regarded as prisoners of war; but, if General Howe should not accede to this doctrine, then an enlargement by exchange or on parole was to be solicited for the Baron St. Ouary.—Journals, December 3d.
[1 ]John Laurens in a letter to his father gives an account of this day’s movements: “When we marched from Whitemarsh Camp and were in the act of crossing the Schuylkill, we received intelligence that the enemy were advancing on this side of the river; in fact a ravaging party of four thousand under the command of Lord Cornwallis had passed the river and were driving Potter’s militia before them. Two regiments of this corps, however, are said to have conducted themselves extremely well, and to have given the enemy no small annoyance as they advanced. General Sullivan was Major General of the day, and consequently conducted the march. His division and part of Wayne’s had crossed the river; being uncertain as to the number of the enemy, and dreading their advance in force, when part of the army should be on one side of the river and part on the other, he ordered those troops to recross and our bridge to be rendered impassable. Notice of this was sent to the Commander in chief, and when he arrived, parties of the enemy were seen on the commanding heights on this side of the river. There was a pause for some time and consultation what was to be done; parties of horse in the meantime were detached to gain certain intelligence of the enemy’s numbers and designs. . . . Some pronounced hastily that the enemy had received intelligence of our march, although the resolution had been taken in council only the night before, and that they were prepared to oppose our passage. Genl. Washington, who never since I have been in his family, has passed a false judgment on such points, gave it as his opinion that the party in view were foragers; that the meeting was accidental, but, however, the enemy might avail themselves of this unexpected discovery, and might draw as much advantage from it as if the rencounter had been premeditated. The intelligence was received that the enemy were retiring in great haste, but it did not appear satisfactory, and the army was ordered to march to Swedes Ford, three or four miles higher up the river and encamp with the right to the Schuylkill. The next morning the want of provisions—I could weep tears of blood when I say it—the want of provisions rendered it impossible to march. We did not march till the evening of that day. Our ancient bridge, an infamous construction, which in many parts obliged the men to march by Indian file, was restored, and a bridge of waggons made over the Swedes Ford, but fence-rails from necessity being substituted to plank, and furnishing a very unstable footing. This last served to cross a trifling number of troops. As the event turned out, Genl. Sullivan’s retrograde movement was unspeakably unlucky. If we had persevered in crossing in the first instance, or if we had even crossed in the evening of the first day, the flower of the British army must have fallen a sacrifice to superior numbers.”—23 December, 1777.
[1 ]“As to General Burgoyne’s request to me to permit him to depart before his army, I did not think myself authorized to grant it, before I consulted Congress, to whom I transmitted a copy of his letter. I shall give him an answer, as soon as I know their determination. I think it would have been highly improper to have allowed him the liberty of visiting your seaport towns. A man of his sagacity and penetration would make many observations upon situations, etc., that might prove detrimental to us in future. . . . Whenever you have occasion for directions in any matters respecting General Burgoyne and his troops, it will be best for you to write fully to Congress upon the subject, as they alone must determine in all cases which refer to them.”—Washington to General Heath, 17 December, 1777.
[1 ]By the Vth Article of the Convention the British troops on their march to Boston were to be supplied with provisions, “by General Gates’ orders, at the same rate of rations as the troops of his own army.” But Gates was paying for his supplies in paper money, worth at this time only about one third of its nominal or specie value; and the justice of Washington’s suggestion to exact full payment in coin for what the British consumed, may with reason be questioned. Congress was already considering the question raised by Washington in his letter of November 1st, (pp. 164, 165 of this volume), and on the 19th of December ordered “that the accounts of all provisions and other necessaries which already have been, or which hereafter may be supplied by the public to prisoners in the power of these States, shall be discharged by either receiving from the British Commissary of prisoners, or any of his agents, provisions or other necessaries, equal in quality and kind to what have been supplied, or the amount thereof in gold and silver, at the rate of 4s. 6d for every dollar of the currency of these States: and that all these accounts be liquidated and discharged, previous to the release of any prisoners to whom provisions or other necessaries shall have been supplied.” Heath, pressed for money, had asked Burgoyne to settle the accounts for November, and had agreed to accept Continental money; but before a settlement was had, he received this resolution of Congress, which he at once communicated to Burgoyne. The British general naturally thought “it was a little extraordinary that we should refuse our own currency, and further added that it was hard, since it was notorious that a Guinea might be exchanged for twelve or fourteen dollars through the country.”—Heath to the President of Congress, 5 January, 1778. And two weeks later he told the Continental Commissary “that the demanding hard money was so extraordinary that he imagined Great Britain would not hesitate at paying thirty thousand pounds sterling to publish such a procedure to the world.”—Heath to the President of Congress, 18 January, 1778. He claimed the Convention was infringed by such a demand, contrary alike to the pledge of the public faith, and to general justice implied in the dealings of the most hostile nations, and appealed to Howe. The result was that Howe acceded to an exchange of prisoners, but Washington found himself hampered later by this resolve of December 19th.—Washington to Howe, 10 February, 1778; Washington to the President of Congress, 8 March, 1778.
[1 ]“By virtue of the power and direction to me especially given, I hereby enjoin and require all persons residing within seventy miles of my Head Quarters to thresh one half their grain by the first day of February and the other half by the first day of March next ensuing, on pain in case of failure of having all that shall remain in sheaves, after the periods above mentioned, seized by the Commissaries & Quarter Masters of the army and paid for as straw.”—Proclamation, 20 December, 1777.
[1 ]“Your favor of the 24th of September, inclosing a discourse against Toryism, came safe to my hands. For the honor of the dedication, I return you my sincere thanks, and wish most devoutly that your labor may be crowned with the success it deserves.”—Washington to Rev. Mr. Whitaker (Salem, Mass.), 20 December, 1777.
[1 ]Extracts from two letters, received on the 22d of December, will be enough to show the grounds upon which this statement is made. “I received an order,” writes General Huntington, “to hold my brigade in readiness to march. Fighting will be by far preferable to starving. My brigade are out of provisions, nor can the commissary obtain any meat. I am exceedingly unhappy in being the bearer of complaints to Head-Quarters. I have used every argument my imagination can invent to make the soldiers easy, but I despair of being able to do it much longer.” The next is from General Varnum. “According to the saying of Solomon, hunger will break through a stone-wall. It is therefore a very pleasing circumstance to the division under my command, that there is a probability of their marching. Three days successively we have been destitute of bread. Two days we have been entirely without meat. The men must be supplied, or they cannot be commanded. The complaints are too urgent to pass unnoticed. It is with pain, that I mention this distress. I know it will make your Excellency unhappy; but, if you expect the exertion of virtuous principles, while your troops are deprived of the necessaries of life, your final disappointment will be great in proportion to the patience, which now astonishes every man of human feeling.”
[1 ]In a letter to Congress, dated October 8th, General Mifflin had tendered the resignation of his commissions of major-general and quartermaster-general, on the ground of ill-health. His commission of quartermaster was accepted on the 7th of November, but the rank and commission of major-general, without the pay annexed to the office, was continued to him; and at the same time he was chosen a member of the new Board of War, which was constituted of persons not in Congress. This Board, by its first organization, was to consist of three members. The persons chosen were General Mifflin, Colonel Pickering, and Colonel Harrison. Before it went into operation, the Board was enlarged to five members, and, Harrison having declined the appointment, General Gates, Joseph Trumbull, and Richard Peters were chosen in addition to Mifflin and Pickering. On recommendation of Mifflin, Gates was made president of the Board, and recalled from his command in the northern department to fill that station. The salary of each member was two thousand dollars a year. The Board were intrusted with extensive powers, but they were obliged to sit in the place where Congress was held. All their proceedings were to be inspected by Congress or a committee once a month, and free access to the records was to be allowed at all times to any member of Congress.—Journals, October 17th; November 7th, 27th.
[1 ]Alluding to the Memorial, or Remonstrance, of the legislature of Pennsylvania, respecting his going into winter-quarters.
[2 ]In the expectation of checking the spirit of resigning among the officers the House of Commons of North Carolina passed a resolution that any Carolina officer “who shall, unless for good and sufficient reasons, certified to the governor to be such by the Commander in chief of the Continental army, resign his commission at this critical period, shall be held and deemed incapable of holding hereafter any office, civil or military, in the gift of this State.” This called out the following from the General:
[1 ]The name of the State varied with the letter.
[1 ]Conway had just been appointed by Congress inspector-general to the army, and promoted to the rank of major-general. He wrote to General Washington, respecting the mode of discharging his new duties, and added in regard to his late appointments: “I accepted the office of inspector-general with the view of being instrumental to the welfare of the cause, and to the glory of the Commander-in-chief, in making his troops fit to execute his orders. The rank of major-general, which was given me, is absolutely requisite for this office, in order to be vested with proper authority to superintend the instruction and the internal administration. There is no inspector in the European armies under a major-general. However, Sir, if my appointment is productive of any inconvenience, or anywise disagreeable to your Excellency, as I neither applied nor solicited for this place, I am very ready to return to France, where I have pressing business; and this I will do with the more satisfaction, as I expect even there to be useful to the cause.”—MS. Letter, December 29th. It is remarkable that he should assert, as he does here, that he never applied for the appointment of major-general, when there are letters of an anterior date from him to Congress, in which he not only applies, but insists, with a forwardness almost amounting to impudence, that the rank ought to be bestowed on him, and uses a series of arguments to sustain his application.—Sparks.
[1 ]When the Baron de Kalb received an appointment in the army, Conway sent a remonstrance to Congress, which begins as follows: “It is with infinite concern, that I find myself slighted and forgot, when you have offered rank to persons, who cost you a great deal of money, and have never rendered you the least service. Baron de Kalb, to whom you have offered the rank of major-general, is my inferior in France.” And then he proceeds to utter his complaints and objections, and to demand for himself the rank of major-general.
[1 ]Conway’s reply to this last clause of the letter is sufficiently indicative of his duplicity and vanity. “What you are pleased to call an extraordinary promotion,” he says, “is a very plain one. There is nothing extraordinary in it, only that such a place was not thought of sooner. The general and universal merit, which you wish every promoted officer might be endowed with, is a rare gift. We see but few of merit so generally acknoweldged. We know but the great Frederic in Europe, and the great Washington on this continent. I certainly never was so rash as to pretend to such a prodigious height. Neither do I pretend to any superiority in personal qualities over my brother brigadiers, for whom I have much regard. But you, Sir, and the great Frederic, know perfectly well, that this trade is not learnt in a few months. I have served steadily thirty years; that is, before some of my comrade brigadiers were born. Therefore I do not think that it will be found marvellous and incredible, if I command here a number of men, which falls much short of what I have commanded there many years in an old army.